Rand's reversal advances Pompeo

President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump defends Stephanopolous interview Trump defends Stephanopolous interview Buttigieg on offers of foreign intel: 'Just call the FBI' MORE’s nominee for secretary of State, Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoUS-Iran tensions rise: Five things to know about oil tanker attack US-Iran tensions rise: Five things to know about oil tanker attack The US must do its part in closing the largest outdoor prison in the world MORE, appears to be on a glide path to confirmation after a last-minute reversal Monday from Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulOvernight Defense: Pompeo blames Iran for oil tanker attacks | House panel approves 3B defense bill | Trump shares designs for red, white and blue Air Force One Senate rejects effort to block Trump's Qatar, Bahrain arms sales Senate rejects effort to block Trump's Qatar, Bahrain arms sales MORE (R-Ky.).

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

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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 IsaksonSenate passes disaster aid bill after deal with Trump GOP senators work to get Trump on board with new disaster aid package Senators say they've reached deal on Puerto Rico aid 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 CorkerPress: How 'Nervous Nancy' trumped Trump Press: How 'Nervous Nancy' trumped Trump Amash gets standing ovation at first town hall after calling for Trump's impeachment 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 CornynTrump puts GOP in tough spot with remarks on foreign 'dirt' Trump puts GOP in tough spot with remarks on foreign 'dirt' Overnight Health Care: Pelosi to change drug-pricing plan after complaints | 2020 Democrats to attend Planned Parenthood abortion forum | House holds first major 'Medicare for All' hearing 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 McConnellElection security bills face GOP buzzsaw Election security bills face GOP buzzsaw Overnight Defense: Trump doubles down on claim Iran attacked tankers | Iran calls accusations 'alarming' | Top nuke official quietly left Pentagon | Pelosi vows Congress will block Saudi arms sale 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 HeitkampLobbying World Pro-trade group targets Democratic leadership in push for new NAFTA On The Money: Stocks sink on Trump tariff threat | GOP caught off guard by new trade turmoil | Federal deficit grew 38 percent this fiscal year | Banks avoid taking position in Trump, Dem subpoena fight MORE (N.D.), Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinThe Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by MAPRx — Trump takes heat for remarks on help from foreign governments The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by MAPRx — Trump takes heat for remarks on help from foreign governments The Hill's Morning Report - Trump and House Democrats resume battle MORE (W.Va.) and Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyConservatives spark threat of bloody GOP primaries Anti-corruption group hits Congress for ignoring K Street, Capitol Hill 'revolving door' K Street giants scoop up coveted ex-lawmakers 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 TillersonBolton says Russia, China seeking to promote discord in Trump administration Bolton says Russia, China seeking to promote discord in Trump administration Trump's nastiest break-ups: A look at the president's most fiery feuds 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 SchumerElection security bills face GOP buzzsaw Election security bills face GOP buzzsaw US women's soccer team reignites equal pay push MORE (D-N.Y.), Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerElection security bills face GOP buzzsaw Election security bills face GOP buzzsaw Trump puts GOP in tough spot with remarks on foreign 'dirt' MORE (D-Va.), Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillConservatives spark threat of bloody GOP primaries Congress needs to work to combat the poverty, abuse and neglect issues that children face Lobbying world MORE (D-Mo.) and Angus KingAngus Stanley KingOn The Money: Economy adds 75K jobs in May | GOP senator warns tariffs will wipe out tax cuts | Trump says 'good chance' of deal with Mexico On The Money: Economy adds 75K jobs in May | GOP senator warns tariffs will wipe out tax cuts | Trump says 'good chance' of deal with Mexico Trump administration appeals ruling that blocked offshore Arctic drilling 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 - Trump, Biden go toe-to-toe in Iowa The Hill's Morning Report - Trump, Biden go toe-to-toe in Iowa Overnight Health Care: Biden infuriates abortion-rights groups with stance on Hyde Amendment | Trump tightens restrictions on fetal tissue research | Democrats plan event to scrutinize Trump's mental health 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.