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This week: Senate barrels toward showdown over Pompeo

Senators are bracing for a battle over CIA Director Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoOvernight Defense: Trump says 'rogue killers' could be behind missing journalist | Sends Pompeo to meet Saudi king | Saudis may claim Khashoggi killed by accident | Ex-VA chief talks White House 'chaos' | Most F-35s cleared for flight GOP strategist says Trump is taking 'appropriate stance' with Saudi Arabia Saudi Embassy in DC cancels National Day celebration amid uproar over missing journalist 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 PaulNoisy democracy, or rude people behaving like children? Lawmakers, Wall Street shrug off Trump's escalating Fed attacks Five things to watch for in deteriorating US-Saudi relations MORE (R-Ky.) opposed and Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainLive coverage: McSally clashes with Sinema in Arizona Senate debate Is there difference between good and bad online election targeting? Murkowski not worried about a Palin challenge 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 HeitkampElection Countdown: Cruz, O'Rourke fight at pivotal point | Ryan hitting the trail for vulnerable Republicans | Poll shows Biden leading Dem 2020 field | Arizona Senate debate tonight Democrats hold fading odds of winning Senate this November Florida politics play into disaster relief debate MORE (D-N.D.), who is up for reelection in a state President TrumpDonald John TrumpKey takeaways from the Arizona Senate debate Major Hollywood talent firm considering rejecting Saudi investment money: report Mattis says he thought 'nothing at all' about Trump saying he may leave administration 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 CoonsDem senators urge Pompeo to reverse visa policy on diplomats' same-sex partners 15 Saudis identified in disappearance of Washington Post columnist The Senate needs to cool it 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 CorkerDemocrats torch Trump for floating 'rogue killers' to blame for missing journalist Trump to send Pompeo to meet Saudi king Trump defends 0B US arms sale to Saudi Arabia 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 McConnellJuan Williams: Trump’s policies on race are more important than his rhetoric It’s Mitch McConnell’s Washington – and we’re just living in it Trump makes new overtures to Democrats 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 FlakeKey takeaways from the Arizona Senate debate Live coverage: McSally clashes with Sinema in Arizona Senate debate Overnight Defense: Trump says 'rogue killers' could be behind missing journalist | Sends Pompeo to meet Saudi king | Saudis may claim Khashoggi killed by accident | Ex-VA chief talks White House 'chaos' | Most F-35s cleared for flight 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 KingCollusion judgment looms for key Senate panel People have forgotten 'facade' of independent politicians, says GOP strategist Senate poised to confirm Kavanaugh after bitter fight 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 FranksFreedom Caucus members see openings in leadership AP Analysis: 25 state lawmakers running in 2018 have been accused of sexual misconduct Jordan weathering political storm, but headwinds remain 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 ClintonCarter Page files defamation lawsuit against DNC Dems fear party is headed to gutter from Avenatti’s sledgehammer approach Election Countdown: Cruz, O'Rourke fight at pivotal point | Ryan hitting the trail for vulnerable Republicans | Poll shows Biden leading Dem 2020 field | Arizona Senate debate tonight 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 ShusterHouse and Senate negotiators reach agreement on water infrastructure bill Congress, states and cities are not doing enough today to fix our infrastructure It’s high time for a discussion on infrastructure 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 RyanElection Countdown: Cruz, O'Rourke fight at pivotal point | Ryan hitting the trail for vulnerable Republicans | Poll shows Biden leading Dem 2020 field | Arizona Senate debate tonight Paul Ryan to campaign for 25 vulnerable House Republicans GOP super PAC pushes back on report it skipped ad buys for California's Rohrabacher, Walters 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 TillisDems angered by GOP plan to hold judicial hearings in October Kavanaugh tensions linger after bitter fight GOP fractured over filling Supreme Court vacancies in 2020 MORE (N.C.) and Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamBrunson release spotlights the rot in Turkish politics and judiciary Saudi Arabia, Turkey to form joint investigation into Khashoggi disappearance Democrats must end mob rule 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 GrassleyDems angered by GOP plan to hold judicial hearings in October American Bar Association dropping Kavanaugh review Clinton's security clearance withdrawn at her request 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 FeinsteinAmerican Bar Association dropping Kavanaugh review Juan Williams: Trump, the Great Destroyer Top Judiciary Dems call for unredacted 'zero tolerance' memo 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 LankfordCollusion judgment looms for key Senate panel GOP loads up lame-duck agenda as House control teeters The Hill's Morning Report — Kavanaugh, Ford saga approaches bitter end 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.