Rand's reversal advances Pompeo

President TrumpDonald John TrumpRussia's election interference is a problem for the GOP Pence to pitch trade deal during trip to Michigan: report Iran oil minister: US made 'bad mistake' in ending sanctions waivers MORE’s nominee for secretary of State, Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoMore money at the gas pump may be the price of pressuring Iran The Hill's Morning Report - Dem candidates sell policy as smart politics Kim to meet with Putin as tensions with US rise MORE, appears to be on a glide path to confirmation after a last-minute reversal Monday from Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulBooker, Harris have missed most Senate votes Trump vetoes measure ending US support for Saudi-led war in Yemen Bottom line MORE (R-Ky.).

Paul’s surprise support helped push Pompeo over the top in an 11-9-1 Senate Foreign Relations Committee vote.


All 11 of the Republicans on the committee voted for Pompeo, while nine Democrats voted against him. Sen. Christopher  Coons (D-Del.) voted present after opposing Pompeo in an initial vote. Under Senate rules, Sen. Johnny IsaksonJohn (Johnny) Hardy IsaksonCongress punts on disaster aid amid standoff with Trump, Dems Overnight Defense: Transgender troops rally as ban nears | Trump may call more troops to border | National Guard expects 3M training shortfall from border deployment | Pentagon to find housing for 5,000 migrant children Pompeo: Russia complying with nuclear treaty that's up for renewal MORE (R-Ga.), who was voting "yes" by proxy as he attended a funeral, couldn’t be used to clinch a majority for Pompeo, so the committee would have been formally tied at 10-10 unless a Democrat agreed to vote present. 

The outcome was dramatically different from what lawmakers, staffers and pundits had expected earlier in the day.

Pompeo, who is now Trump’s CIA director, was widely expected to become the first secretary of State nominee since at least 1925 to fail to win a favorable recommendation from the panel. 

Paul had vowed for weeks to oppose Pompeo, citing his support for the Iraq War and his views on so-called enhanced interrogation techniques.

“I’m perplexed by the nomination of people who love the Iraq War so much that they would advocate for a war with Iran next. I think it goes against most of the things President Trump campaigned on,” Paul said. 

But Paul had been under intense pressure from Trump and White House officials to change course. In a statement about Pompeo just minutes before the vote, Paul mentioned fielding several calls from the president.

“After calling continuously for weeks for Director Pompeo to support President Trump’s belief that the Iraq war was a mistake, and that it is time to leave Afghanistan, today I received confirmation that Director Pompeo agrees with President Trump,” Paul said in a statement.

Trump gave Paul a shoutout last week, calling him a “very special guy” and predicting that he would come around. 

“I will say this about Rand Paul: He’s never let me down. … And I don’t think he’ll let us down again. So let’s see what happens,” Trump said.

Republicans had indicated they thought Paul was a lost cause. The libertarian-minded senator frequently breaks with his party on foreign policy issues, and he angered his colleagues earlier this year by forcing a brief government shutdown.

“He’s a friend of mine, but I’ll let the president deal with that,” Sen. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerPollster says Trump unlikely to face 'significant' primary challenge GOP gets used to saying 'no' to Trump Democrats introduce bill to rein in Trump on tariffs MORE (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, told reporters after Trump’s comment about Paul.

When a reporter noted on Monday that Paul’s stance caused difficulty for Republicans “at times,” Sen. John CornynJohn CornynMJ Hegar announces Texas Senate bid Embattled senators fill coffers ahead of 2020 Trump struggles to reshape Fed MORE (Texas), the No. 2 Senate Republican, fired back: “At times? I would strike the ‘at times.’ I wish them luck.”

With the committee vote behind them, GOP leadership is expected to bring Pompeo’s nomination up for a vote on the Senate floor before the end of the week.

“It’s hard to imagine a better nominee for this mission at this moment than Mike Pompeo. I look forward to upholding the tradition of this body and voting to confirm him this week,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellThe Hill's Morning Report - Dem candidates sell policy as smart politics Overnight Defense: Trump ends sanctions waivers for buying Iranian oil | At least four Americans killed in Sri Lanka attacks | Sanders pushes for Yemen veto override vote McConnell: 'Time to move on' from Trump impeachment talk MORE (R-Ky.) said.

Pompeo has a lock on the simple majority he needs to be confirmed. So far, three Democrats — Sens. Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampPro-trade groups enlist another ex-Dem lawmaker to push for Trump's NAFTA replacement Pro-trade group targets 4 lawmakers in push for new NAFTA Biden office highlights support from women after second accuser comes forward MORE (N.D.), Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinCain says he withdrew from Fed consideration because of 'pay cut' On The Money: Cain 'very committed' to Fed bid despite opposition | Pelosi warns no US-UK trade deal if Brexit harms Irish peace | Ivanka Trump says she turned down World Bank job Cain says he won't back down, wants to be nominated to Fed MORE (W.Va.) and Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyK Street boom extends under Trump, House Dems Some in GOP fear Buttigieg run for governor Paul Ryan joins University of Notre Dame faculty MORE (Ind.) — have said they will support Pompeo’s nomination. Assuming every Republican senator votes “yes,” Pompeo is on track to get at least 53 votes.

All three of the Democrats backing Pompeo are up for reelection in red-leaning states that Trump won handily in 2016. 

“After meeting with Mike Pompeo, discussing his foreign policy perspectives, & considering his distinguished time as CIA Director & his exemplary career in public service, I will vote to confirm Mike Pompeo to be our next Secretary of State,” Manchin said in a tweet.

Donnelly added in a statement that Pompeo “is capable of advancing U.S. interests and leading the State Department.”

Despite the jolt of momentum on Monday, Pompeo will likely set a record for the most votes ever cast against a secretary of State. That record is now held by Trump’s first secretary of State, Rex TillersonRex Wayne TillersonJuan Williams: The high price of working for Trump Graham jokes to Pompeo: You're the 'longest-serving member of the cabinet, right?' Trump moves to install loyalists MORE, who was confirmed 56-43 last year.

Yet Monday’s outcome was also a setback for liberal Democrats who had pushed to keep Pompeo’s nomination in limbo as a way to force concessions from Republicans.

Liberals wanted to force McConnell to try to discharge Pompeo’s nomination from the committee. The unusual move would have required 60 votes and given Democrats an opening to try block Pompeo — the first time they would have been able to scuttle a Trump nominee on the Senate floor.

But that move appeared to fail to gain traction after Democratic senators began coming out in support of Pompeo; Heitkamp was the first on Thursday, followed by Manchin and Donnelly on Monday.

Of the 15 members of the Senate minority who supported Pompeo’s nomination for CIA director, four have yet to say how they’ll vote: Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerMJ Hegar announces Texas Senate bid Hillicon Valley: House Dems subpoena full Mueller report | DOJ pushes back at 'premature' subpoena | Dems reject offer to view report with fewer redactions | Trump camp runs Facebook ads about Mueller report | Uber gets B for self-driving cars Dem legal analyst says media 'overplayed' hand in Mueller coverage MORE (D-N.Y.), Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerDems reject Barr's offer to view Mueller report with fewer redactions GOP senators divided on Trump trade pushback Hillicon Valley: Trump unveils initiatives to boost 5G | What to know about the Assange case | Pelosi warns tech of 'new era' in regulation | Dem eyes online hate speech bill MORE (D-Va.), Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillBig Dem names show little interest in Senate Gillibrand, Grassley reintroduce campus sexual assault bill Endorsements? Biden can't count on a flood from the Senate MORE (D-Mo.) and Angus KingAngus Stanley KingOvernight Energy: Trump moves to crack down on Iranian oil exports | Florida lawmakers offer bill to ban drilling off state's coast | Bloomberg donates .5M to Paris deal Florida lawmakers offer bill to ban drilling off state's coast Angus King: 'Mueller passed the obstruction question to the Congress and Barr intercepted the pass' MORE (I-Maine).

Several red and purple state senators, such as Democratic Sens. Doug Jones (Ala.) and Bob CaseyRobert (Bob) Patrick CaseyThe Hill's Morning Report - Dem candidates sell policy as smart politics Sen. Casey presses DNC for presidential debate in Pennsylvania License to discriminate: Religious exemption laws are trampling rights in rural America MORE Jr. (Pa.), also haven’t announced their positions. 

Democrats worry that Pompeo will enable other hawks on Trump’s national security team — namely national security adviser John Bolton — while working to unravel the Iran nuclear deal.

But Republicans and the White House had launched an eleventh hour charm offensive to try to win over more support.

“If red-state Democrats refuse to stand up to their liberal colleagues on national security, it only proves to voters they’re unfit to continue serving in office,” said Katie Martin, a spokeswoman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders called the Democrats’ tactics “absolutely outrageous.”

“A majority of Democrats continue their pointless obstruction to score cheap political points with their base as a willful attempt to undermine American diplomacy,” she said.