Senate confirms Ratcliffe to be Trump's spy chief

The Senate on Thursday confirmed Rep. John RatcliffeJohn Lee RatcliffeTrump official criticizes ex-Clinton spokesman over defunding police tweet Trump gives Grenell his Cabinet chair after he steps down Trump asserts his power over Republicans MORE (R-Texas) to be President TrumpDonald John TrumpTwitter CEO: 'Not true' that removing Trump campaign video was illegal, as president has claimed Biden formally clinches Democratic presidential nomination Barr says he didn't give 'tactical' command to clear Lafayette protesters 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 CoatsTrump gives Grenell his Cabinet chair after he steps down German lawmaker, US ambassador to Germany trade jabs Intelligence agencies have hired outside consultants to improve communication with Trump: report 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 SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerSheldon Whitehouse leads Democrats into battle against Trump judiciary GOP lawmaker calls on Senate to confirm Michael Pack as head of US media agency McConnell blocks resolution condemning Trump over treatment of protesters 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 WydenCBO releases analysis on extending increased unemployment benefits Overnight Health Care: Hydroxychloroquine ineffective in preventing COVID-19, study finds | WHO to resume hydroxychloroquine clinical research | WHO says no evidence coronavirus is mutating Bipartisan lawmakers press Trump administration to get COVID-19 aid to Medicaid providers 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 ClapperGraham postpones Russia probe subpoena vote as tensions boil over The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Trump tweets as tensions escalate across US Trump asserts his power over Republicans 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 GrassleyThe Hill's Morning Report - DC preps for massive Saturday protest; Murkowski breaks with Trump Murkowski, Mattis criticism ratchets up pressure on GOP over Trump CBO releases analysis on extending increased unemployment benefits MORE (R-Iowa), Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonGraham postpones Russia probe subpoena vote as tensions boil over GOP votes to give chairman authority to subpoena Obama officials Democratic senator to skip vote on Obama-era subpoenas MORE (R-Wis.) and Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamBill aims to help farmers sell carbon credits Graham postpones Russia probe subpoena vote as tensions boil over Graham pushes back on Mattis criticism of Trump: 'You're missing something here, my friend' 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 CollinsOVERNIGHT DEFENSE: Murkowski, Mattis criticism ratchets up pressure on GOP over Trump| Esper orders hundreds of active-duty troops outside DC sent home day after reversal | Iran releases US Navy veteran Michael White Murkowski, Mattis criticism ratchets up pressure on GOP over Trump GOP Sen. Murkowski 'struggling' with whether to vote for Trump 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 McConnellOvernight Energy: US Park Police say 'tear gas' statements were 'mistake' | Trump to reopen area off New England coast for fishing | Vulnerable Republicans embrace green issues The Hill's Campaign Report: Trump juggles three crises ahead of November election Vulnerable Republicans embrace green issues in battle to save seats 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.