Senate confirms Ratcliffe to be Trump's spy chief

The Senate on Thursday confirmed Rep. John RatcliffeJohn Lee RatcliffeTrump official releases unverified Russian intel on Clinton previously rejected by Senate panel Hillicon Valley: Subpoenas for Facebook, Google and Twitter on the cards | Wray rebuffs mail-in voting conspiracies | Reps. raise mass surveillance concerns Bipartisan representatives demand answers on expired surveillance programs MORE (R-Texas) to be President TrumpDonald John TrumpFive takeaways from Trump-Biden debate clash The Memo: Debate or debacle? Democrats rip Trump for not condemning white supremacists, Proud Boys at debate MORE's next spy chief. 

Senators voted 49-44 on Ratcliffe's nomination to the director of national intelligence(DNI), a position that has been filled in an acting capacity since former DNI Dan CoatsDaniel (Dan) Ray CoatsFBI chief says Russia is trying to interfere in election to undermine Biden The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by The Air Line Pilots Association - Trump, Biden renew push for Latino support Former Intel chief had 'deep suspicions' that Putin 'had something on Trump': book MORE stepped down in August.

The vote is one of the final items on the Senate's to-do list before the chamber leaves town for a weeklong Memorial Day recess. And it comes only days after the Senate Intelligence Committee advanced Ratcliffe's nomination along party lines.

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Democrats allowed Ratcliffe's nomination to skip over procedural hurdles that could have delayed his confirmation until June, in a sign that senators want a Senate-confirmed DNI and that acting DNI Richard Grenell is deeply unpopular.

But Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerDemocrats rip Trump for not condemning white supremacists, Proud Boys at debate Warren won't meet with Barrett, calling Trump's nomination an 'illegitimate power grab' Schumer won't meet with Trump's Supreme Court pick MORE (D-N.Y.) vowed to oppose his nomination ahead of Thursday's vote, saying that he has "not demonstrated the qualities for the independence that we should expect."

"It requires someone with unimpeachable integrity, deep experience and the independence and backbone to speak truth to power. That's what DNI's, including the previous one, Dan Coats, did. Unfortunately, Mr. Ratcliffe doesn't even come close to meeting that high bar," Schumer added. 

Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenBottom line Hillicon Valley: Subpoenas for Facebook, Google and Twitter on the cards | Wray rebuffs mail-in voting conspiracies | Reps. raise mass surveillance concerns On The Money: Anxious Democrats push for vote on COVID-19 aid | Pelosi, Mnuchin ready to restart talks | Weekly jobless claims increase | Senate treads close to shutdown deadline MORE (D-Ore.), a member of the Intelligence Committee, added that Ratcliffe has made "extremely disturbing statements that make it clear that he has and will misrepresent and politicize intelligence."

Ratcliffe's confirmation was the most political vote that has occurred for what has traditionally been viewed as an apolitical position. He's the sixth Senate-confirmed DNI since the position was created. Coats was confirmed 85-12 for the post in 2017. James ClapperJames Robert ClapperFormer intelligence officials worry Trump debt is counterintelligence risk On China, Biden is no Nixon — and no Trump The Hill's 12:30 Report - Speculation over Biden's running mate announcement MORE, his Senate-confirmed predecessor, was confirmed by a voice vote.

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Trump initially said last year that he intended to nominate Ratcliffe to the post, but the Texas congressman withdrew his name from consideration amid reports that he inflated his résumé.

He's gained a reputation as a loyalist to Trump, including serving as part of a group of House Republicans who were advisers to the president's impeachment team.

Ratcliffe enters the post at a crucial time in the lead up to the 2020 election, where intelligence officials have warned of attempts by Russia to meddle.

The position also puts him in the middle of escalating GOP investigations into decisions stemming from the Obama-era, with Sens. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyGOP seeks to redirect criticism over Trump tax returns Grassley says disclosing Trump's tax records without authorization could violate law Supreme Court nominee gives no clues in GOP meeting MORE (R-Iowa), Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonSunday shows preview: Lawmakers prepare for SCOTUS confirmation hearings before election The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Facebook - Trump previews SCOTUS nominee as 'totally brilliant' The Hill's 12:30 Report: Ginsburg lies in repose MORE (R-Wis.) and Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamTrump official releases unverified Russian intel on Clinton previously rejected by Senate panel Barrett says Trump offered her Supreme Court nomination three days after Ginsburg death Supreme Court nominee gives no clues in GOP meeting MORE (R-S.C.) urging the intelligence community to comply with their requests to hand over information as part of their controversial investigations. Grenell recently handed over a list of Obama administration officials who "unmasked" former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

But Ratcliffe tried to position himself as an independent voice during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee. 

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Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsSenate Democrats want to avoid Kavanaugh 2.0 Trump's Teflon problem: Nothing sticks, including the 'wins' Durbin: Democrats can 'slow' Supreme Court confirmation 'perhaps a matter of hours, maybe days at most' MORE (R-Maine) asked Ratcliffe during the hearing if he would "communicate the intelligence community’s analytical views to the president, even if you knew that he would strongly disagree with them." She also asked if he would do so "even if you believed it would place your job in jeopardy?"

Ratcliffe replied "of course" to both questions.

She also asked if he agreed with Trump that the intelligence community had "run amok and needs to be reined in."

Ratcliffe replied that "what [Trump] says or how he says them ... will not impact the intelligence that I deliver."

Democrats were powerless to stop Ratcliffe's nomination without help from Republicans. He only need a simple majority to be confirmed and Republicans hold 53 seats.

Collins, who was viewed as a swing vote on the committee, said earlier this month that she would support him. No Republican had said ahead of the vote that they would oppose Ratcliffe.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellIn rare move, Schumer forces vote to consider health care bill amid Supreme Court tensions COVID-19 talks hit crucial stretch Supreme Court nominee gives no clues in GOP meeting MORE (R-Ky.) praised Ratcliffe ahead of the vote.

“Today, we’ll confirm the next director of national intelligence. John Ratcliffe will lead the intelligence community in countering threats from great powers, rogue nations and terrorists — and ensuring that work is untainted by political bias," he said.