Senate

Rand Paul under pressure as Pompeo hunts for votes

Camille Fine

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) is facing renewed pressure from President Trump and some of his Senate colleagues to support Mike Pompeo for secretary of State as the administration hunts for votes.

Paul’s opposition is complicating Pompeo’s path to confirmation. Republicans are hoping to pass his nomination next week before leaving town for a recess.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who frequently battles with Paul on foreign policy, vented Thursday about Paul’s opposition.{mosads}

“I hope that Sen. Paul will reconsider because if he changed his view then this would be over, and it really does bother me,” he said. “He ran for president; I ran for president; Trump beat us both. … The election is over.”

With Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) becoming the first Democrat to say she will vote for Pompeo on Thursday, Republicans likely won’t need Paul’s support to confirm him on the Senate floor.

But Paul’s opposition is poised to make Pompeo the first secretary of State nominee since the mid-1920s — before which committee business was largely conducted in secret — to be moved to the floor despite getting an unfavorable committee vote.

Republicans only hold a one-seat majority on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

With Paul, a member of the panel, expected to vote “no” during the committee’s Monday vote, Pompeo would need to pick up the support of at least one Democrat to get majority support.

So far, no Democrat has stepped forward. Sen. Christopher Coons (Del.) is the only Democratic member who hasn’t said how he will vote. He previously opposed Pompeo to be CIA director and has said he’s leaning against Pompeo’s current nomination.

President Trump, who has been an ally of Paul’s, has upped the pressure on him to support Pompeo.

During a working lunch, Trump said that he has “a lot of confidence” in Paul.

“Rand Paul has never let me down. … I don’t think he will let us down again,” Trump said.

Winning over Paul, whose foreign policy views often clash with members of his own caucus, might be out of reach even for Trump.

Though Paul met with Pompeo on Thursday, he appeared unmoved after the closed-door powwow.

Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, signaled getting Paul on board was unlikely.

“I’ll leave him to the president,” he said while smiling, when asked if Paul could be won over.

Corker then interrupted a reporter who was asking a question on another topic, to turn around and add: “He’s a friend of mine, but I’ll let the president deal with that.”

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) warned Democrats to support Pompeo and not “conspire” with Paul to block Pompeo’s nomination.

“Sen. Paul has unusual foreign policy views that are not representative of the Republican Senate caucus,” he said to reporters.

Tags Bob Corker Christopher Coons Donald Trump Heidi Heitkamp Lindsey Graham Mike Pompeo Rand Paul Tom Cotton

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