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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 TrumpDonald Trump Jr. calls Bruce Springsteen's dropped charges 'liberal privilege' Schiff sees challenges for intel committee, community in Trump's shadow McConnell says he'd back Trump as 2024 GOP nominee 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 BurrSenators given no timeline on removal of National Guard, Capitol fence Passage of the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act is the first step to heal our democracy Overnight Health Care: COVID-19 vaccine makers pledge massive supply increase | Biden health nominee faces first Senate test | White House defends reopening of facility for migrant kids 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 CoatsHow President Biden can hit a home run Former Trump intel chief Coats introduces Biden nominee Haines at hearing Senate Intelligence Committee leaders warn of Chinese threats to national security 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 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Divided House on full display Mehdi Hasan gets MSNBC Sunday prime-time show Haley isolated after Trump fallout MORE (Fla.) and John CornynJohn CornynSenators should know precisely what they're voting on Mean tweets may take down Biden nominee Senate GOP works to avoid having '22 war with Trump 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 CollinsHouse passes sweeping protections for LGBTQ people Grassley to vote against Tanden nomination Klain on Manchin's objection to Neera Tanden: He 'doesn't answer to us at the White House' 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.