Senate braces for showdown over Trump’s nominees

Senate braces for showdown over Trump’s nominees
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The Senate is barreling toward a showdown over President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump marks 'very sad milestone' of 100K coronavirus deaths DOJ: George Floyd death investigation a 'top priority' Lifting our voices — and votes MORE’s latest Cabinet shuffle, with three critical departments looking for new leaders and more that could follow.

Republicans are preparing for a weeks-long battle as they try to confirm CIA Director Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoChinese lawmakers approve law allowing for stricter crackdown on Hong Kong The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - US virus deaths exceed 100,000; Pelosi pulls FISA bill Overnight Defense: Trump ends sanctions waivers for Iran nuclear projects | Top Dems says State working on new Saudi arms sale | 34-year-old Army reservist ID'd as third military COVID-19 death MORE to be secretary of State and CIA Deputy Director Gina Haspel to succeed him.

Haspel’s nomination in particular is controversial, and the GOP has little margin for error given Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulTrump urges GOP to vote against bill reauthorizing surveillance powers Sunday shows preview: States begin to reopen even as some areas in US see case counts increase Congress headed toward unemployment showdown MORE’s (R-Ky.) opposition to both of Trump’s picks.

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“I mean that's going to take a lot of floor time,” Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneFrustration builds in key committee ahead of Graham subpoena vote  The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - US death toll nears 100,000 as country grapples with reopening GOP faces internal conflicts on fifth coronavirus bill MORE (S.D.), the No. 3 Senate Republican, told The Hill. “Who knows how long and how much the Democrats are going to want to weigh in with some of those. But it will for sure be time consuming. That's not going away.”

Senators will also need to consider Rear Adm. Ronny Jackson, the White House physician, to replace David ShulkinDavid Jonathon ShulkinSchumer demands answers in use of unproven coronavirus drug on veterans Former Trump VA secretary says staffer found plans to replace him in department copier VA under pressure to ease medical marijuana rules MORE as Veterans Affairs secretary.

GOP senators have largely remained mum over Jackson’s nomination, which has come under scrutiny given the physician’s lack of experience in running a large bureaucratic organization.

“I've never met him, don't know him. And what I do know does suggest that he needs to demonstrate that he has the qualifications, the capabilities despite the lack of experience,” Sen. Jerry MoranGerald (Jerry) MoranMemorial Day during COVID-19: How to aid our country's veterans Pass the Primary Care Enhancement Act Hillicon Valley: Facebook permanently shifting thousands of jobs to remote work | Congressional action on driverless cars hits speed bump during pandemic | Republicans grill TikTok over data privacy concerns MORE (R-Kan.), a member of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, told NPR.

Nominations need a simple majority to clear the Senate. But with a fragile 51-seat grip on the chamber, Republicans have no room for error.

Democrats haven’t signaled if they will unanimously vote against the three nominees.

The White House, GOP leadership and outside groups are expected to pressure red and purple state Democrats up for reelection to vote for Trump’s picks, and there’s reason to think some Democrats could see reason to vote for one or more of the nominees.

Haspel is seen as facing a more challenging confirmation battle than Pompeo, as several key Republican senators remain on the fence.

Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainHow Obama just endorsed Trump Former Texas Rep. Sam Johnson dies at 89 Trump's needless nastiness and cruelty will catch up with him MORE (R-Ariz.), who has been absent from Washington for months as he battles brain cancer, wants Haspel to detail her views and involvement on Bush-era “enhanced interrogation techniques,” which are now widely viewed as torture, saying the issue is critical to the Senate’s consideration of her nomination.

Director of National Intelligence Dan CoatsDaniel (Dan) Ray CoatsGerman lawmaker, US ambassador to Germany trade jabs Intelligence agencies have hired outside consultants to improve communication with Trump: report Senate confirms Ratcliffe to be Trump's spy chief MORE would not commit to fully declassifying all information on Haspel’s involvement in the techniques but said “every effort will be made to fully explain exactly what her role was and what [it] wasn’t.”

Outside groups and advocates are already gearing up for an intense fight.

Dozens of former Pompeo staffers released a letter on Friday urging support for his nomination. The letter said Pompeo had “never shied away from speaking the truth” and that his “leadership at State will empower American diplomacy, strengthen America's influence and make the world a better place.” [Read the letter below.]

Progressive and human rights groups want the Senate to reject Haspel’s nomination over her role in interrogations at a so-called black site prison and the destruction of videotapes documenting the waterboarding sessions of an al Qaeda suspect there.

Several Democratic senators — including Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenPelosi pulls vote on FISA bill after Trump veto threat FISA 'reform': Groundhog Day edition Hillicon Valley: House FISA bill in jeopardy | Democrats drop controversial surveillance measure | GOP working on legislation to strip Twitter of federal liability protections MORE (Ore.), a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee — have already come out against her.

The Senate Intelligence Committee hasn't yet scheduled a hearing date for Haspel. 

Pompeo is scheduled to testify before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Thursday. Aides to several Democratic senators on the panel noted their bosses are also expected to meet privately with him.

The fight comes as Republicans and Democrats bicker over the length of time it has taken to consider Trump nominees.

Under the rules, senators can force up to 30 hours of post-cloture debate time, eating up days of Senate floor time. It has taken Trump’s nominees an average of 84 days to be confirmed, according to a tracker from The Washington Post and the Partnership for Public Service.

Changing the rules to speed up votes for Trump’s nominees has been under discussion among Senate Republicans for roughly a year.

GOP Sen. James LankfordJames Paul LankfordGOP senators urge Trump not to restrict guest worker visas Senate revives surveillance brawl Republicans sharply divided over timeline for reopening economy MORE’s (Okla.) proposal would cut down debate time from 30 hours to eight hours for most nominations once they’ve overcome an initial hurdle that shows they have the simple majority to pass. Most Cabinet-level nominations would not qualify for the shorter debate time under Lankford’s proposal.

A GOP aide told The Hill that the proposal could see movement in the Rules and Administration Committee in May. Sen. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntWashington prepares for a summer without interns GOP faces internal conflicts on fifth coronavirus bill Senators weigh traveling amid coronavirus ahead of Memorial Day MORE (R-Mo.), the next chairman of the committee, predicted the proposal will get a vote, adding that “Republicans have every right to be offended by the way the rules have been abused.”

Republicans are putting the fight over Trump’s nominees at the center of their messaging heading into the 2018 elections.

“Even if we were to lose the House and be stymied legislatively, we could still approve appointments, which is a huge part of what we do,” Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellMcConnell urges people to wear masks: 'There's no stigma' Frustration builds in key committee ahead of Graham subpoena vote  Lack of child care poses major hurdle as businesses reopen MORE (R-Ky.) told the Kentucky Today editorial board.

It’s unlikely that the current slate of confirmation fights will be the final Cabinet shake-up senators face amid speculation that several officials — including Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittPelosi hammers Pompeo, Trump: 'Scandalous' to dismiss IGs EPA emails reveal talks between Trump officials, chemical group before 2017 settlement Fossil fuel companies have gotten at least million in coronavirus aid: report MORE, Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsThe Memo: Trump tweets cross into new territory Sessions goes after Tuberville's coaching record in challenging him to debate The 10 Senate seats most likely to flip MORE and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben CarsonBenjamin (Ben) Solomon CarsonCOVID-19 makes Trump's work with black Americans that much harder Sunday shows preview: Congress spars over next round of coronavirus relief; GOP seeks offensive after news of Flynn 'unmasking' On The Money: Small business loan program out of money | Lawmakers at impasse over new funds | Senate adjourns for week with no deal | Trump to leave decision on reopening economies with governors MORE — could be next on the chopping block. 

Read letter from former Pompeo staffers by kballuck1 on Scribd

Updated on April 9 at 11:02 a.m.