This week: Senate barrels toward showdown over Pompeo

Senators are bracing for a battle over CIA Director Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoState Department blocks reporters from Pompeo briefing with faith-based media: report The Hill's Morning Report - Dems contemplate big election and court reforms Pompeo jokes he'll be secretary of State until Trump 'tweets me out of office' MORE’s nomination as Republicans aim to confirm him before leaving town for a weeklong recess.

Pompeo appears to have enough support to clear the Senate. With Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulTrio of NFL players intern on Capitol Hill as part of league program Trump keeps tight grip on GOP GOP moves to rein in president's emergency powers MORE (R-Ky.) opposed and Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump steps up attacks on McCain Trump: 'I was never a fan of John McCain and I never will be' Santorum: Trump should 'send emails to a therapist' instead of tweeting MORE (R-Ariz.) absent, he needed to win over at least one Democratic senator to get 50 votes and a simple majority of the chamber.

Sen. Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampAnnual scorecard ranks GOP environmental efforts far below Dems in 2018 Overnight Energy: Trump taps ex-oil lobbyist Bernhardt to lead Interior | Bernhardt slams Obama officials for agency's ethics issues | Head of major green group steps down Trump picks ex-oil lobbyist David Bernhardt for Interior secretary MORE (D-N.D.), who is up for reelection in a state President TrumpDonald John TrumpDem lawmaker says Electoral College was 'conceived' as way to perpetuate slavery Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals to visit White House on Monday Transportation Dept requests formal audit of Boeing 737 Max certification MORE won by more than 35 points in 2016, became the first, and so far only, Democrat to say she will vote to confirm Pompeo.

But Pompeo’s nomination faces a series of roadblocks before it can be brought to the Senate floor.

First, he’s facing a historic rebuke by the Foreign Relations Committee during a vote scheduled for early Monday evening.

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Republicans hold a one-seat advantage on the panel and Paul is expected to vote against his nomination on Monday. That means if Pompeo wants to get a favorable recommendation he needs to win over one Democratic senator.

But Sen. Christopher CoonsChristopher (Chris) Andrew CoonsSenate Dem calls on Trump to apologize for attacks on McCain Sixteen years later, let's finally heed the call of the 9/11 Commission  Senate Dems introduce bill demanding report on Khashoggi killing MORE (D-Del.), the final Democrat on the panel to announce his position, said on Friday that he would oppose Pompeo.

Absent a last-minute vote switch, that leaves Republicans unable to report his nomination favorably to the Senate floor, marking a historic setback for Trump.

Sen. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerTrump keeps tight grip on GOP Brexit and exit: A transatlantic comparison Sasse’s jabs at Trump spark talk of primary challenger MORE (R-Tenn.), the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, could then try to either report Pompeo to the full Senate with an unfavorable recommendation or with no recommendation.

Pompeo would be the first secretary of State nominee to receive an unfavorable committee vote since at least the mid-1920s, before which committee deliberations on nominations were largely secret.

The Senate has also once successfully approved a Cabinet official who failed to receive a favorable committee: In 1945, when former President Roosevelt appointed Henry Wallace to be secretary of Commerce.

Underscoring the growing partisanship over Trump’s picks, Democrats on the panel haven’t yet said if they would move Pompeo’s nomination to the floor even with an unfavorable recommendation.

If they don’t help move it to the floor, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGOP rep to introduce constitutional amendment to limit Supreme Court seats to 9 The Hill's Morning Report - Dems contemplate big election and court reforms Court-packing becomes new litmus test on left MORE (R-Ky.) could be forced to try to discharge Pompeo’s nomination from the committee — a move that could ultimately require 60 votes and potentially breaking a Democratic filibuster.

But Democratic leadership could be wary of playing hardball with other, more controversial, floor fights looming, and as several Democrats face tough reelection bids in states won by Trump last year.

Once Pompeo’s nomination gets to the floor he appears to have the simple majority to ultimately be approved, though Senate rules allow opponents to drag out the debate for days.

Paul is the only Republican so far to oppose Pompeo. Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeTrump keeps tight grip on GOP McSally to back Trump on emergency declaration Flake: Biden 'strikes fear in a lot of Republicans' MORE (R-Ariz.) said late last week that he remains undecided, but he previously supported Pompeo to be CIA director.

Meanwhile, some red-state Democrats who previously opposed Pompeo to lead the spy agency have remained on the fence.

In addition, of the 15 Democratic caucus members who supported Pompeo last year, seven remain undecided: Joe Donnelly (Ind.), Maggie Hassan (N.H.), Joe Manchin (W.Va.), Claire McCaskill (Mo.), Minority Leader Charles Schumer (N.Y.), Mark Warner (Va.) and independent Sen. Angus KingAngus Stanley KingOvernight Defense: Senate rejects border emergency in rebuke to Trump | Acting Pentagon chief grilled on wall funding | Warren confronts chief over war fund budget Shanahan grilled on Pentagon's border wall funding Senators offer bipartisan bill to fix 'retail glitch' in GOP tax law MORE (Maine).

While Republicans wait for Pompeo’s nomination to wind its way to the Senate floor, the chamber is expected to take up another judicial nominee.

McConnell has set a procedural vote for 5:30 p.m. on Monday for Stuart Kyle Duncan’s nomination to be a U.S. circuit judge for the 5th Circuit.

Arizona special election

Republican Debbie Lesko is slated to take on Democrat Hiral Tipirneni Tuesday in a special election to replace former Rep. Trent FranksHarold (Trent) Trent FranksArizona New Members 2019 Cook shifts 8 House races toward Dems Freedom Caucus members see openings in leadership MORE (R-Ariz.). The Republican National Committee dumped $281,250 at the last minute into the race in an effort to hold on to the deep-red district. 

Trump won Arizona's 8th Congressional District by 21 points over Democratic presidential nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonDem lawmaker says Electoral College was 'conceived' as way to perpetuate slavery Dem strategist says Donna Brazile is joining Fox News 'for the money' CNN to host town hall with Cory Booker in South Carolina MORE in 2016.

According to a poll conducted by Lake Research Partners, Lesko is leading Tipirneni by roughly 14 points.

Franks resigned last year amid allegations he offered staffers $5 million to serve as a surrogate for his child. 

 

FAA reauthorization

The lower chamber is scheduled to vote on legislation reauthorizing the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) through 2023, which includes disaster relief language that passed the House in December.

“The bipartisan DRRA will ensure our communities are more resilient, build better, and build smarter.  Ultimately, because of this commonsense, proactive approach to mitigating the impacts of disasters before they strike and not waiting until afterwards to simply pick up the pieces, this legislation will save lives, save property, and save taxpayer dollars,” House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill ShusterWilliam (Bill) Franklin ShusterFormer GOP chairman Royce joins lobbying shop Lobbying world Crowley, Shuster moving to K Street MORE (R-Pa.) said in a statement.

The measure, introduced by Shuster earlier this month, removed a provision from FAA legislation introduced earlier in the year that would have privatized air traffic control systems.

Macron's address

As part of his official state visit, French President Emmanuel Macron is scheduled to visit Capitol Hill where he will address a joint session of Congress on Wednesday. House Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanPaul Ryan joins board of Fox Corporation Bottom Line Paul Ryan says Trump will win reelection because of 'record of accomplishment' MORE (R-Wis.) invited Macron to speak to lawmakers in March.

“France is not only our oldest ally, but one of our strongest,” the Wisconsin Republican said in a statement. “This is a special opportunity to build on the historic relationship between our countries, and to reaffirm our commitment to defeating terror both domestically and around the world. I look forward to welcoming President Macron to the United States Capitol to address a joint meeting of Congress on April 25.”

Macron will be the eighth president of France to address Congress, the last was Nicolas Sarkozy in 2007.

Special counsel legislation

The Senate Judiciary Committee is poised to approve legislation protecting special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE despite opposition from GOP leadership.

The panel is scheduled to vote Thursday on the bill, which would codify that only a senior Justice Department official can fire Mueller. It would also allow Mueller, or any other special counsel, to challenge their firing, and if a court determines it wasn’t for “good cause” they would be reinstated.

With GOP Sens. Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisOvernight Health Care: CDC pushes for expanding HIV testing, treatment | Dem group launches ads attacking Trump on Medicare, Medicaid cuts | Hospitals, insurers spar over surprise bills | O'Rourke under pressure from left on Medicare for all Dem group launches ads attacking Trump's 'hypocrisy on Medicare and Medicaid cuts' Trump keeps tight grip on GOP MORE (N.C.) and Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamGraham: Dems want to abolish Electoral College because they 'want rural America to go away' Overwhelming majority of voters want final Mueller report released: poll Bottom Line MORE (S.C.) expected to vote for the bill, it has enough support to pass the Judiciary Committee.

But it’s expected to face amendments from Republicans on the panel. Sen. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleySeniors win big with Trump rebate rule  Klobuchar: ObamaCare a 'missed opportunity' to address drug costs Just one in five expect savings from Trump tax law: poll MORE (R-Iowa) is planning to offer an amendment that, according to the GOP senator, would increase reporting to Congress on the appointment of a special counsel, the scope of an investigation and if a special counsel was going to be fired.

Multiple senators on the panel noted they were actively reviewing and negotiating potential amendments.

Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinGOP rep to introduce constitutional amendment to limit Supreme Court seats to 9 Senate Dems petition Saudi king to release dissidents, US citizen Court-packing becomes new litmus test on left MORE (D-Calif.), the top Democrat on the committee, said she remained concerned about an attempt to require “law enforcement officials to report prosecutorial decisions during open criminal investigations. In the name of transparency we should not create new reporting requirements that could bring about obstruction or political pressure."

The vote comes even after McConnell said he would not take up legislation protecting Mueller and that he did not believe it was necessary.

“I'm the one who decides what we take to the floor, that's my responsibility as the majority leader, and we will not be having this on the floor of the Senate,” he told Fox News.

But Grassley, while chiding the media for trying to pit him against McConnell or Trump, pledged that the committee would move forward after supporters merged two previous competing bills at his urging.

“Obviously the views of the majority leader are important to consider, but they do not govern what happens here in the Judiciary Committee. ... If consideration on the floor was a standard for approving a bill, we wouldn't be moving any bills out of this committee,” Grassley said.

Rules change

Senate Republicans are poised to move forward with a proposal to cut down the amount of debate time required to confirm Trump’s nominees.

Republicans have been privately mulling the change for more than a year, arguing Democrats are using the Senate’s rulebook to slow-walk the president’s picks.

The Senate Rules Committee is scheduled to vote Wednesday on a proposal from Sen. James LankfordJames Paul LankfordGOP senators eye 'nuclear' move to change rules on Trump nominees Senate GOP goes down to wire in showdown with Trump Overnight Defense: Pentagon seeks B over five years for Space Force | Trump says Warmbier comments 'misinterpreted' | GOP bristles at Trump plan to pay for wall MORE (R-Okla.) to shrink the amount of debate time on nominees.

Currently, nominees have to churn through another 30 hours of debate, after clearing an initial hurdle, allowing opponents to eat up a day of floor time on one nomination.

Lankford’s proposal would cut the amount of time required from 30 hours to eight hours for hundreds of nominees, and limit post-cloture debate time on district court judges to two hours.

The rule change wouldn’t effect most Cabinet-level nominations, Supreme Court justices or circuit court judges.

With Republicans holding a majority on the panel, Lankford’s proposal is likely to pass on Wednesday’s vote.