This week: Senate barrels toward showdown over Pompeo

Senators are bracing for a battle over CIA Director Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoBolton replacement inherits tough challenges — including Trump Saudi Arabia says it will take 'appropriate' action if Iran's role in attacks confirmed Clarence Thomas, Joe Manchin, Rudy Giuliani among guests at second state visit under Trump 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 PaulOn The Money: House votes to avert shutdown, fund government through November | Judge blocks California law requiring Trump tax returns | Senate panel approves three spending bills Paul objection snags confirmation of former McConnell staffer Defense bill talks set to start amid wall fight MORE (R-Ky.) opposed and Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainAmerica's newest comedy troupe: House GOP Michelle Malkin knocks Cokie Roberts shortly after her death: 'One of the first guilty culprits of fake news' Arizona Democratic Party will hold vote to censure Sinema 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 HeitkampThe Hill's Morning Report — Biden steadies in third debate as top tier remains the same Trump wins 60 percent approval in rural areas of key states Pence to push new NAFTA deal in visit to Iowa MORE (D-N.D.), who is up for reelection in a state President TrumpDonald John TrumpAlaska Republican Party cancels 2020 primary Ukrainian official denies Trump pressured president Trump goes after New York Times, Washington Post: 'They have gone totally CRAZY!!!!' 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 committee approves 0 million for state election security efforts Media and candidates should be ashamed that they don't talk about obesity Bill to return B in unredeemed bonds advances 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 announces, endorses ambassador to Japan's Tennessee Senate bid Meet the key Senate player in GOP fight over Saudi Arabia Trump says he's 'very happy' some GOP senators have 'gone on to greener pastures' 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 McConnellDC statehood push faces long odds despite record support Overnight Energy: California, 23 other states sue Trump over vehicle emissions rule | Climate strike protests hit cities across globe | Interior watchdog expands scope of FOIA investigation | Dems accuse officials of burying climate reports Hillicon Valley: Lawmakers say Zuckerberg to 'cooperate' on antitrust probes | Dems see victory after McConnell backs election security funds | Twitter takes down fake pro-Saudi accounts 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 FlakeFlake donates to Democratic sheriff being challenged by Arpaio in Arizona The Hill's Morning Report - Trump says US-China trade talks to resume, hails potential trade with Japan, UK Joe Arpaio to run for Maricopa County sheriff in 2020  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: Dems grill Trump Army, Air Force picks | House chair subpoenas Trump Afghanistan negotiator | Trump officials release military aid to Ukraine Democrats grill Army, Air Force nominees on military funding for border wall Bipartisan panel to issue recommendations for defending US against cyberattacks early next year 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 ClintonUkrainian official denies Trump pressured president The Memo: 'Whistleblower' furor gains steam Missing piece to the Ukraine puzzle: State Department's overture to Rudy Giuliani 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 ShusterEx-GOP Rep. Roskam joins lobbying firm Anti-corruption group hits Congress for ignoring K Street, Capitol Hill 'revolving door' Republicans spend more than million at Trump properties 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 RyanDemocrats hit Scalia over LGBTQ rights Three-way clash set to dominate Democratic debate Krystal Ball touts Sanders odds in Texas 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 (Bob) Swan MuellerLewandowski says Mueller report was 'very clear' in proving 'there was no obstruction,' despite having 'never' read it Fox's Cavuto roasts Trump over criticism of network Mueller report fades from political conversation 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 TillisThe Hill's Campaign Report: De Blasio drops out | Warren gains support from black voters | Sanders retools campaign team | Warning signs for Tillis in NC The Hill's Morning Report — Trump's new controversy Warning signs flash for Tillis in North Carolina MORE (N.C.) and Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamSenate Judiciary Committee requests consultation with admin on refugee admissions Trump reignites court fight with Ninth Circuit pick Trump judicial picks face rare GOP opposition 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 GrassleyOvernight Health Care — Presented by Partnership for America's Health Care Future — Pelosi unveils signature plan to lower drug prices | Trump says it's 'great to see' plan | Progressives pushing for changes Trump: 'Great to see' Pelosi plan to lower drug prices Pelosi unveils signature plan to lower drug prices 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 FeinsteinFeinstein calls on Justice to push for release of Trump whistleblower report Senate Judiciary Committee requests consultation with admin on refugee admissions Trump reignites court fight with Ninth Circuit pick 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 LankfordMcConnell support for election security funds leaves Dems declaring victory Election security funds passed by Senate seen as welcome first step Senate committee approves 0 million for state election security efforts 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.