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Senate confirms Ratcliffe to be Trump's spy chief

The Senate on Thursday confirmed Rep. John RatcliffeJohn Lee RatcliffeFormer Trump officials eye bids for political office Grenell congratulates Buttigieg on becoming second openly gay Cabinet member Senate confirms Biden's intel chief, giving him first Cabinet official MORE (R-Texas) to be President TrumpDonald TrumpNoem touts South Dakota coronavirus response, knocks lockdowns in CPAC speech On The Trail: Cuomo and Newsom — a story of two embattled governors McCarthy: 'I would bet my house' GOP takes back lower chamber in 2022 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 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.

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 SchumerThe bizarre back story of the filibuster Hillicon Valley: Biden signs order on chips | Hearing on media misinformation | Facebook's deal with Australia | CIA nominee on SolarWinds House Rules release new text of COVID-19 relief bill 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 WydenHouse Democrats pass sweeping .9T COVID-19 relief bill with minimum wage hike House set for tight vote on COVID-19 relief package On The Money: Democrats scramble to save minimum wage hike | Personal incomes rise, inflation stays low after stimulus burst 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 ClapperThe biggest example of media malfeasance in 2020 is... Meet Biden's pick to lead the US intelligence community The new marshmallow media in the Biden era 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 GrassleyChuck GrassleyGrassley to vote against Tanden nomination Grassley says he'll decide this fall whether to run in 2022 Yellen deputy Adeyemo on track for quick confirmation MORE (R-Iowa), Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonGraham: Trump will 'be helpful' to all Senate GOP incumbents Partisan headwinds threaten Capitol riot commission Cruz hires Trump campaign press aide as communications director MORE (R-Wis.) and Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamOvernight Defense: Biden sends message with Syria airstrike | US intel points to Saudi crown prince in Khashoggi killing | Pentagon launches civilian-led sexual assault commission Graham: Trump will 'be helpful' to all Senate GOP incumbents John Boehner tells Cruz to 'go f--- yourself' in unscripted audiobook asides: report 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 CollinsCollins urges Biden to revisit order on US-Canada border limits Media circles wagons for conspiracy theorist Neera Tanden Why the 'Never-Trumpers' flopped 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 McConnellThe bizarre back story of the filibuster The Bible's wisdom about addressing our political tribalism Democrats don't trust GOP on 1/6 commission: 'These people are dangerous' 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.