Senate panel sets confirmation hearing for Trump's intel chief pick for Tuesday

Senate panel sets confirmation hearing for Trump's intel chief pick for Tuesday
© Bonnie Cash

The Senate Intelligence Committee will hold a confirmation hearing on Tuesday for Rep. John Ratcliffe's (R-Texas) nomination to be President TrumpDonald John TrumpCNN's Anderson Cooper: Trump's Bubba Wallace tweet was 'racist, just plain and simple' Beats by Dre announces deal with Bubba Wallace, defends him after Trump remarks Overnight Defense: DOD reportedly eyeing Confederate flag ban | House military spending bill blocks wall funding MORE's director of national intelligence. 

The panel formally scheduled the hearing on Thursday, a day after a source familiar with the matter confirmed to The Hill that they were preparing to move forward next week as the Senate returns amid the coronavirus pandemic.

A spokeswoman for Sen. Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrBiden campaign adds staff in three battleground states Exclusive investigation on the coronavirus pandemic: Where was Congress? Trump asserts his power over Republicans MORE (R-N.C.), who chairs the committee, didn't immediately respond to a request for comment about if the panel will be implementing additional guidelines or safety measures to allow for social distancing during the hearing. 

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The hearing — which will take place a day after the Senate returns to Washington — comes after President Trump and his allies had hoped Republicans would quickly confirm Ratcliffe. The role has been filled in an acting capacity since Dan CoatsDaniel (Dan) Ray CoatsAmerica's divide widens: Ignore it no longer Trump gives Grenell his Cabinet chair after he steps down German lawmaker, US ambassador to Germany trade jabs MORE stepped down in August. 

But the Senate's five-week break sparked by the coronavirus threw Ratcliffe and other pending nominations into limbo. Trump railed earlier this month against the Senate for holding pro forma sessions that prevent him from making recess appointments, and specifically pointed to the director of national intelligence position as one that was being delayed because of Congress's recess. 

Ratcliffe's nomination is expected to spark a fierce fight with Democrats already urging Republicans to oppose him and help sink the nomination. Trump had initially said last year that he planned to nominate Ratcliffe for the post, but the Texas Republican withdrew his name from consideration amid scrutiny that he inflated his résumé and a lukewarm reception from Senate Republicans. 

Several GOP senators on the Senate Intelligence Committee, including Burr and Sens. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Trump wants schools to reopen, challenged on 'harmless' COVID-19 remark Russian bounties revive Trump-GOP foreign policy divide Congress eyes tighter restrictions on next round of small business help MORE (Fla.) and John CornynJohn CornynSenators push foreign media to disclose if they are registered as foreign agents GOP senators debate replacing Columbus Day with Juneteenth as a federal holiday New legislation required to secure US semiconductor leadership MORE (Texas), have indicated that they will support Ratcliffe's nomination. 

But Republicans hold just a one-seat majority on the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsCollins trails Democrat Sara Gideon by 4 in Maine Senate race: poll Senate outlook slides for GOP Trump sealed his own fate MORE (Maine), a moderate GOP senator who faces a difficult reelection campaign, is viewed as a swing vote on whether Ratcliffe's nomination will be sent to the full Senate with a favorable recommendation.

Several Republican senators, including Collins, have declined to say how they will vote on Ratcliffe's nomination. Republicans hold a 53-47 majority in the full Senate, meaning he could lose three GOP senators and still be confirmed by allowing Vice President Pence to break a tie.