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Rand Paul to oppose Pompeo, Haspel

Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Tax March - CDC in limbo on J&J vax verdict; Rep. Brady retiring Anti-Asian hate crimes bill overcomes first Senate hurdle Fauci on Tucker Carlson vaccine comments: 'Typical crazy conspiracy theory' MORE (R-Ky.) said on Wednesday he would oppose President TrumpDonald TrumpDC goes to the dogs — Major and Champ, that is Biden on refugee cap: 'We couldn't do two things at once' Taylor Greene defends 'America First' effort, pushes back on critics MORE's nominations of CIA Director Mike PompeoMike PompeoPompeo violated ethics rules, State Dept. watchdog finds Why the US needs to clear the way for international justice Tim Scott to participate in GOP event in Iowa 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 CorkerFox News inks contributor deal with former Democratic House member Senate GOP faces retirement brain drain Roy Blunt won't run for Senate seat in 2022 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 TillersonBiden's is not a leaky ship of state — not yet With salami-slicing and swarming tactics, China's aggression continues Lawmakers to roll out legislation reorganizing State cyber office MORE would also get a vote before the full Senate even if his panel split. At the time, Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioHillicon Valley: Biden administration sanctions Russia for SolarWinds hack, election interference Senators reintroduce bill to block NATO withdrawal New US sanctions further chill Biden-Putin relations 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 McCainCongress brings back corrupt, costly, and inequitably earmarks Trump knocks CNN for 'completely false' report Gaetz was denied meeting The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Tax March - Biden, lawmakers start down a road with infrastructure 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 SchumerPew poll: 50 percent approve of Democrats in Congress Former state Rep. Vernon Jones launches challenge to Kemp in Georgia Schumer lays groundwork for future filibuster reform 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 KingNew US sanctions further chill Biden-Putin relations Schumer lays groundwork for future filibuster reform Bipartisan lawmakers signal support for Biden cybersecurity picks 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 brings back corrupt, costly, and inequitably earmarks Georgia law makes it a crime to give food, water to people waiting to vote Senate Democrats reintroduce bill to create financial transaction tax 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 FeinsteinOvernight Defense: Army moves to combat sexual crimes | Eight West Point cadets expelled | Democratic senators want to restrict F-35 sale to UAE A proposal to tackle congressional inside trading: Invest in the US Democratic senators seek to constrain F-35 sale to UAE 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.