Pompeo headed for confirmation after surprise panel vote

A Senate panel on Monday voted to give CIA Director Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoBritain and Europe need to step up their support for Hong Kong Take China seriously, not literally Sunday shows preview: Leaders weigh in as country erupts in protest over George Floyd death MORE a favorable recommendation that puts him on course to be confirmed as secretary of State, following a surprise last-minute vote switch by Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulSecond senator tests positive for coronavirus antibodies Senate Democrats pump brakes on new stimulus checks Tim Kaine tests positive for COVID-19 antibodies MORE (R-Ky.).

Pompeo was poised to face a historic setback by becoming the first secretary of State nominee since at least 1925 to fail to win over a majority of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

The U-turn on the panel comes after Paul announced minutes before the Foreign Relations Committee meeting that he would support Pompeo’s nomination.

ADVERTISEMENT

“Having received assurances from President TrumpDonald John TrumpDonald Trump and Joe Biden create different narratives for the election The hollowing out of the CDC Poll: Biden widens lead over Trump to 10 points MORE and Director Pompeo that he agrees with the President on these important issues, I have decided to support his nomination to be our next Secretary of State,” Paul said in a string of tweets early Monday evening.

He added that the decision came after he had spoken with Trump “several times today. I also met with and spoke to Director Pompeo.”

Paul has been under an intense public pressure campaign from both Trump and White House legislative affairs director Marc Short, who predicted earlier Monday that Paul would ultimately come around.

But Pompeo's nomination faced another last-minute roadblock.

After the committee voted 11-10 to favorably recommend him, Sen. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerRomney is only GOP senator not on new White House coronavirus task force McConnell, Romney vie for influence over Trump's trial RNC says ex-Trump ambassador nominee's efforts 'to link future contributions to an official action' were 'inappropriate' MORE (R-Tenn.), the committee chairman, noted under Senate rules a nomination needs to be able to win over a majority of those present. 

GOP Sen. Johnny IsaksonJohnny IsaksonJustice Department closing stock investigations into Loeffler, Inhofe, Feinstein Loeffler runs ad tying Doug Collins to Pelosi, Sanders, Biden The 10 Senate seats most likely to flip MORE (Ga.), one of the "yes" votes, was absent and cast his vote by proxy, leaving the committee formally tied at 10-10.

Corker and Sen. Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezGovernment watchdog: 'No evidence' Pompeo violated Hatch Act with Kansas trips No time to be selling arms to the Philippines Senate panel approves Trump nominee under investigation MORE (D-N.J.) warned that the panel could have to come back for a second vote around 11 p.m., once Isakson was able to return to Washington from a funeral.

Instead, Sen. Chris CoonsChristopher (Chris) Andrew CoonsVoting rights, public health officials roll out guidelines to protect voters from COVID-19 The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - US virus deaths exceed 100,000; Pelosi pulls FISA bill Warren's VP bid faces obstacle: Her state's Republican governor MORE (D-Del.) agreed to vote "present" on a second vote.

That made the final committee vote on favorably sending Pompeo to the floor 11-9, with Isakson voting proxy and every Democrat besides Coons voting no. 

Corker visibly choked up when speaking with reporters about Coons after the vote, saying the Democratic senator displayed a "statesmanship that I'm not accustomed to seeing in the Senate." 

Coons noted that Isakson was delivering the eulogy at a funeral and voting present was the "appropriate thing to do." 

"The only question was would it happen now or would we force my dear friend Johnny Isakson, who gave the eulogy at his best friend's funeral today, to come here tonight at 11. ...It did not change the outcome in any way," he told reporters. 

Isakson also thanked Coons in a tweet:

Pompeo’s nomination is now heading toward the Senate floor, where he has the 50 votes needed to be confirmed.

Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin (W.Va.), Joe Donnelly (Ind.) and Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.) — who are up for reelection in states Trump won handedly in 2016 — have said they will support Pompeo once he comes to the Senate floor.

“Mike Pompeo will bring a unique perspective to the State Department and is the right person to lead the department to achieve our country’s foreign policy goals. I have had a strong working relationship with him in my role on the Senate Intelligence Committee,” Manchin said in a statement on Monday.

Several other red-state Democratic senators remain on the fence, including Sen. Doug Jones (Ala.), who wasn't in the Senate last year for Pompeo's CIA confirmation vote.

Meanwhile, of the 15 minority party members who supported Pompeo last year to be CIA director, four remain on the fence: Claire McCaskill (Mo.), Minority Leader Charles Schumer (N.Y.), Mark Warner (Va.) and Angus King (I-Maine).

Updated: 6:56 p.m.