Rand Paul to oppose Pompeo, Haspel

Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulCotton swipes at Fauci: 'These bureaucrats think that they are the science' Paul, Cruz fire back after Fauci says criticism of him is 'dangerous' No deal in sight as Congress nears debt limit deadline MORE (R-Ky.) said on Wednesday he would oppose President TrumpDonald TrumpPence: Supreme Court has chance to right 'historic wrong' with abortion ruling Prosecutor says during trial that actor Jussie Smollett staged 'fake hate crime' Overnight Defense & National Security — US, Iran return to negotiating table MORE's nominations of CIA Director Mike PompeoMike PompeoNo time for the timid: The dual threats of progressives and Trump Psaki: Sexism contributes to some criticism of Harris Mnuchin, Pompeo mulled plan to remove Trump after Jan. 6: book MORE to be secretary of State and CIA Deputy Director Gina Haspel to lead the spy agency.

Paul said that he will oppose the nominations and "do everything I can to block" them.

"My announcement today is that I will oppose both Pompeo's nomination and Haspel's nomination," Paul said.

Paul is the first Republican to come out against the two nominations, which were announced by Trump on Tuesday. Last year, he was the only Republican to vote against Pompeo for CIA director.

The senator pointed to his previous statement that Pompeo doesn't believe "enhanced interrogation techniques" to be torture, as well as his support for the Iraq War, in explaining his opposition. 

"I'm perplexed by the nomination of people who love the Iraq War so much that they would advocate for a war with Iran next. I think it goes against most of the things President Trump campaigned on," he said. 

Paul said he is opposing Haspel due to her involvement in the enhanced interrogation program during the George W. Bush administration. He said she showed "joyful glee at someone who is being tortured." 

"I find it just amazing that anyone would consider having this woman at the head of the CIA," Paul said. 

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Paul's opposition to Pompeo complicates, but doesn't sink, his path to leading the State Department.

Republicans have an 11-10 advantage on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, making Paul a key vote.

If Paul votes no during the panel's deliberations and every Democrat opposes him, committee Chairman Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerCheney set to be face of anti-Trump GOP How leaving Afghanistan cancels our post-9/11 use of force The unflappable Liz Cheney: Why Trump Republicans have struggled to crush her  MORE (R-Tenn.) will be forced to decide if he'll move Pompeo's nomination to the floor anyway.

Corker said last year that ousted Secretary of State Rex TillersonRex Wayne TillersonHillicon Valley — Blinken unveils new cyber bureau at State Blinken formally announces new State Department cyber bureau Hillicon Valley — TikTok, Snapchat seek to distance themselves from Facebook MORE would also get a vote before the full Senate even if his panel split. At the time, Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioWisconsinites need infrastructure that is built to last  Republicans struggle to save funding for Trump's border wall Rubio: Dropping FARC from terrorist list threatens Colombians, US security MORE (R-Fla.) was viewed as a potential swing vote.

Corker signaled on Wednesday that Pompeo would get a full Senate vote even if Paul opposed him and split the committee. 

"We have multiple ways of reporting people. We've had this type of thing come up in the past," he said. 

He added that reporters "should let us play it out" and "I know of one member thus far that's going to vote no."

Paul's defection could also force Republicans to rely on Vice President Pence, or Democrats, to get Pompeo through the full Senate.

Assuming every Republican senator but Paul supports Pompeo, as they did for his current CIA post, and every Democrat opposes, the Senate would split 50-50.

The absence of Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainGOP senators appalled by 'ridiculous' House infighting MSNBC's Nicolle Wallace, Chris Christie battle over Fox News Trump's attacks on McConnell seen as prelude to 2024 White House bid MORE (R-Ariz.), who is undergoing treatment for brain cancer and hasn't voted in months, could further complicate Pompeo's nomination.

If McCain doesn't return and Paul votes no, that would leave Republicans short, at a 49-50 vote, forcing them to win over a Democrat.

Pompeo could win over Democratic votes, though he'll likely face a tighter vote than he did last year when he was confirmed to lead the CIA.

Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerLawmakers take aim at 'Grinches' using bots to target consumers during holidays Democratic frustration growing over stagnating voting rights bills Schumer mourns death of 'amazing' father MORE (D-N.Y.) said on Tuesday that he was not actively urging his caucus to oppose Pompeo or Haspel but said the two picks will face "unanswered" and "outstanding" questions.

Fourteen Democrats, including Schumer, and Independent Sen. Angus KingAngus KingAmazon, Facebook, other large firms would pay more under proposed minimum tax, Warren's office says Senators look to defense bill to move cybersecurity measures Energy information chief blames market for high fuel prices MORE (Maine), supported Pompeo to lead the CIA.

But several have indicated they are reconsidering their votes, or remaining on the fence, until Pompeo's hearing before the Foreign Relations Committee next month.

"I'm not taking a position until we hear from him, but there are lots of outstanding questions," Schumer told reporters.

Sen. Brian SchatzBrian Emanuel SchatzCongress should reject H.R. 1619's dangerous anywhere, any place casino precedent Alabama Republican touts provision in infrastructure bill he voted against Telehealth was a godsend during the pandemic; Congress should keep the innovation going MORE (D-Hawaii), who also supported Pompeo for his CIA post, said, "There are a number of us who voted for him last time who are actively reconsidering."

And King said he would reserve his decision on the Secretary of State position until Pompeo had a hearing.

Paul isn't on the Intelligence Committee, which will handle Haspel's hearing.

But it appears increasingly likely Republicans will need help from Democrats to get her confirmed. 

In addition to Paul's questions, McCain said Haspel "needs to explain the nature and extent of her involvement in the CIA’s interrogation program during the confirmation process."

"Any nominee for Director of the CIA must pledge without reservation to uphold this prohibition, which has helped us to regain our position of leadership in the struggle for universal human rights—the struggle upon which this country was founded, and which remains its highest aspiration," McCain said in a statement.

No Democrats have formally said they will oppose Haspel, but several have raised concerns about her involvement in the interrogation program.

If Paul votes no, and McCain is absent, leadership will need to win over every other GOP senator and at least one Democrat in order for Pence to cast a tiebreaking vote.

Paul signaled that he wasn't sure if other GOP senators would oppose Haspel adding "it depends on the solidarity of the Democrats."

Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinProgressive groups urge Feinstein to back filibuster carve out for voting rights or resign Senators call for Smithsonian Latino, women's museums to be built on National Mall Five faces from the media who became political candidates MORE (D-Calif.) said she is undecided but spoke relatively positively about Haspel on Tuesday.

The California senator told reporters that they have "spent some time" together, including having dinner.

"Everything I know is she has been a good deputy director. ... I think hopefully the entire organization learned something from the so-called enhanced interrogation program," she said.

Updated at 3:37 p.m.