Amid struggle for votes, GOP plows ahead with Cabinet picks

Amid struggle for votes, GOP plows ahead with Cabinet picks
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Senate Republicans are preparing to move forward with President TrumpDonald John TrumpDeWine tests negative for coronavirus a second time Several GOP lawmakers express concern over Trump executive orders Beirut aftermath poses test for US aid to frustrating ally MORE’s Cabinet nominees as soon as next week. The problem is that none of them appear to have locked up the 51 votes needed to be confirmed.

But Republicans are barreling ahead anyway, facing heavy pressure from both the administration and their conservative base to speed up the process.

CIA Director Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoBeirut aftermath poses test for US aid to frustrating ally Advocacy groups come out against Trump pick for ambassador to Germany US pledges million in disaster aid to Lebanon MORE, who has been nominated to lead the State Department, and CIA Deputy Director Gina Haspel, tapped to be Pompeo’s successor as spy chief, have particularly stiff headwinds in the face of GOP opposition and are quietly meeting with potential swing votes.

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White House physician Ronny Jackson, Trump’s pick to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs, is also scheduled to get a committee hearing next week, on April 25. He’s certain to face questions about his lack of experience in running a large bureaucratic organization like the VA.

Senators say they expect GOP leadership to bring Pompeo’s nomination to the floor first, even if he isn’t able to win a favorable recommendation from the Foreign Relations Committee.

“Oh, yes, I’m confident of that,” Senate Majority Whip John CornynJohn CornynCOVID-19 bill limiting liability would strike the wrong balance From a Republican donor to Senate GOP: Remove marriage penalty or risk alienating voters Skepticism grows over Friday deadline for coronavirus deal MORE (R-Texas) told The Hill, asked about giving Pompeo a floor vote.

According to the Senate Historian’s Office, senators have only used such a move on a Cabinet nominee once before: In 1945, when President Franklin Roosevelt appointed Henry Wallace to be secretary of Commerce.

It appears increasingly unlikely that Pompeo will be able to get majority support from the Foreign Relations panel, where Republicans have a one-seat advantage, because GOP Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulTrump-backed Hagerty wins Tennessee GOP Senate primary Senators introduce bill to block Trump armed drone sale measure The Hill's Campaign Report: Trump's visit to battleground Ohio overshadowed by coronavirus MORE (Ky.) opposes him.

To do so he would need to win over at least one Democrat. Sens. Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineHillary Clinton roasts NYT's Maureen Dowd over column Ex-USAID employee apologizes, denies sending explosive tweets USAID appointee alleges 'rampant anti-Christian sentiment' at agency MORE (D-Va.) and Jeanne ShaheenCynthia (Jeanne) Jeanne ShaheenThe Hill's Coronavirus Report: GoDaddy CEO Aman Bhutani says DC policymakers need to do more to support ventures and 'solo-preneurs'; Federal unemployment benefits expire as coronavirus deal-making deadlocks Overnight Defense: Pompeo pressed on move to pull troops from Germany | Panel abruptly scraps confirmation hearing | Trump meets family of slain soldier Shaheen, Chabot call for action on new round of PPP loans MORE (D-N.H.) are the only two on the panel who supported him to be CIA director.

But Kaine announced he would oppose Pompeo to be the country’s top diplomat, saying he has “grave doubts about his anti-diplomacy disposition.”

Shaheen is opposing Pompeo as well, citing her “deep concerns” about his “past statements and policy views, particularly in regards to the LGBTQ community, American Muslims and women’s reproductive rights.”

Republicans will be forced to lean on Democrats to get Pompeo confirmed by the full Senate. 

With Paul opposed and Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainBill Maher delivers mock eulogy for Trump Hillary Clinton roasts NYT's Maureen Dowd over column CNN's Ana Navarro to host Biden roundtable on making 'Trump a one-term president' MORE (R-Ariz.) absent from Washington, they only have 49 potential “yes” votes — one short of the 50 they need to let Vice President Pence break a tie. 

Sen. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerTennessee primary battle turns nasty for Republicans Cheney clashes with Trump Sessions-Tuberville Senate runoff heats up in Alabama MORE (R-Tenn.), the chairman of the Foreign Relations panel, sidestepped questions about moving Pompeo to the floor even if he doesn’t get a favorable vote, chiding reporters that “conjecture is bad for your health.”

But he confirmed that he would like to have both a committee vote and a full Senate vote on Pompeo next week, before Congress leaves for a weeklong recess. 

“I know there’s a desire on behalf of the administration to try to have him confirmed before recess,” he said.

While every Republican besides Paul supported Pompeo to be CIA director and are expected to vote for him again, Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeCheney clashes with Trump Sessions-Tuberville Senate runoff heats up in Alabama GOP lawmakers stick to Trump amid new criticism MORE (R-Ariz.) said on Tuesday that he is “still waiting on some information from him” before he makes a decision.

A growing number of Democratic senators are coming out against Pompeo, citing his hawkish views and broader concerns about Trump’s foreign policy, including his decision to name John BoltonJohn BoltonEx-Trump adviser, impeachment witness Fiona Hill gets book deal Hannity's first book in 10 years debuts at No. 1 on Amazon Congress has a shot at correcting Trump's central mistake on cybersecurity MORE his national security adviser.

But of the 14 members of the minority who voted for Pompeo as CIA director, a group that includes Sen. Angus KingAngus KingSenate Democrats push to include free phone calls for incarcerated people in next relief package Trump's pitch to Maine lobstermen falls flat OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Court cancels shutdown of Dakota Access Pipeline | US could avoid 4.5M early deaths by fighting climate change, study finds | Officials warn of increasing cyber threats to critical infrastructure during pandemic MORE (I-Maine), only Kaine, Shaheen, Sen. Brian SchatzBrian Emanuel SchatzLobbying world Overnight Defense: House passes defense bill that Trump threatened to veto | Esper voices concerns about officers wearing military garb Senate rejects broad restrictions on transfers of military-grade equipment to police MORE (D-Hawaii) and Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinSenate Democrats demand answers on migrant child trafficking during pandemic Yates spars with GOP at testy hearing Democrats want Biden to debate Trump despite risks MORE (D-Calif.) have said they will oppose Pompeo to lead the State Department.

Cornyn said there are “discussions going on” with Democrats but declined to elaborate as he walked backwards into his office.

Pompeo is leaving no stone unturned as he hunts for votes ahead of a potential showdown on the floor next week. 

He has met with Democratic Sens. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinHillicon Valley: Facebook removes Trump post | TikTok gets competitor | Lawmakers raise grid safety concerns OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Court cancels shutdown of Dakota Access Pipeline | US could avoid 4.5M early deaths by fighting climate change, study finds | Officials warn of increasing cyber threats to critical infrastructure during pandemic Officials warn of increasing cyber threats to critical infrastructure during pandemic MORE (W.Va.) and Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn Heitkamp70 former senators propose bipartisan caucus for incumbents Susan Collins set to play pivotal role in impeachment drama Pro-trade group launches media buy as Trump and Democrats near deal on new NAFTA MORE (N.D.), who are both up for reelection this fall and previously supported Trump’s Cabinet picks. Heitkamp said on Tuesday that an unfavorable vote in committee would not impact her decision. 

“We’re still evaluating. Still considering. ... Still undecided,” Heitkamp said.

Sen. Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillDemocratic-linked group runs ads in Kansas GOP Senate primary Trump mocked for low attendance at rally Missouri county issues travel advisory for Lake of the Ozarks after Memorial Day parties MORE (D-Mo.) told reporters that she was meeting with Pompeo this week, while Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ala.) said Pompeo’s team had reached out and a spokeswoman for Sen. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerThe Hill's Campaign Report: US officials say Russia, China are looking to sow discord in election US intelligence says Russia seeking to 'denigrate' Biden GOP chairmen hit back at accusation they are spreading disinformation with Biden probe MORE said the Virginia Democrat plans to meet with Pompeo pending scheduling. 

Jones, who was not in the Senate for Pompeo’s CIA vote, said he was keeping an “open mind.”

Meanwhile, the White House formally sent Haspel’s nomination to the Senate on Tuesday, which could pave the way for her to get a confirmation hearing before the recess.

Haspel has been meeting with members of the Senate Intelligence Committee, including Warner and Manchin, as well as Senate leadership.

With Paul opposed to her nomination and several key GOP votes on the fence, Haspel could also need support from Democrats to win confirmation.

“Don’t know how I’m going to vote. Totally open-minded,” Manchin told reporters on Tuesday.

Haspel is under scrutiny from both sides of aisle because of her reported role in interrogations at a “black site” prison and the destruction of videotapes documenting the waterboarding sessions of an al Qaeda suspect there.

Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsCoronavirus deal key to Republicans protecting Senate majority From a Republican donor to Senate GOP: Remove marriage penalty or risk alienating voters The Hill's Campaign Report: Trump's visit to battleground Ohio overshadowed by coronavirus MORE (R-Maine), a key moderate vote and member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, met with Haspel on Monday but has said she will wait until the hearing to make a decision. 

“I had a very good meeting with her. There are obviously some questions that she’s going to need to answer in a public hearing,” she said. “I’m looking forward to getting some additional information I asked for.”