Senate must save itself by confirming Mike Pompeo

The Senate is at risk of losing its role as the deliberator of American foreign policy. By opposing the nomination of the eminently qualified Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoUS to label white supremacist group as terrorist organization for first time Trump administration eyes Afghan security forces funding for aid cut: report Trump says 40,000 Americans have been repatriated who were stranded abroad MORE to be secretary of State, Democrats on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee will greatly harm their ability to play a role in shaping and improving the policies of the Trump administration. They should reconsider their opposition before it is too late.

In recent years, one of the bright spots in the legislative branch has been the bipartisan spirit that infuses the work of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Under the leadership of both Chairman Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerMcConnell, Romney vie for influence over Trump's trial RNC says ex-Trump ambassador nominee's efforts 'to link future contributions to an official action' were 'inappropriate' Lindsey Graham basks in the impeachment spotlight MORE (R-Tenn.) and previous Chairman Robert MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezHillicon Valley: Facebook launches portal for coronavirus information | EU sees spike in Russian misinformation on outbreak | Senate Dem bill would encourage mail-in voting | Lawmakers question safety of Google virus website Democratic senators press Google over privacy of coronavirus screening site Menendez calls for 'Marie Yovanovitch bill' to protect foreign service employees MORE (D-N.J.), the committee has served as a check on both the Obama and Trump administrations.

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Under President Obama, the committee wrote and passed into law the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act, which facilitated congressional oversight of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, which is the agreement between Iran, the United States and five other nations regarding Iran’s illegal nuclear weapons program. During the first year of the Trump administration, the committee has passed tough sanctions on Iran, Russia and North Korea, and also monitored and checked the administration’s plan to redesign the State Department and foreign assistance agencies.

Under the leadership of Chairman Menendez in 2013, the committee unanimously approved the nomination of John KerryJohn Forbes KerryHistory's lessons for Donald Trump US inaction is hurting the chance for peace in Libya Poll: More Republican voters think party is more united than Democratic voters MORE to be President Obama’s Secretary of State. Although Republican senators on the committee disagreed with Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) on nearly all domestic policy issues, and indeed, many foreign policy issues, they strongly believed that he was qualified to handle the responsibilities of the job and that President Obama should have a secretary of State of his choosing, assuming that person is qualified and of good character.

They also knew how critical it was for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the jurisdiction of which includes international treaties and declarations of war, to have a relationship of trust and goodwill with the president and his chief diplomat, particularly when there were policy disagreements. Further, although we are loathe in these times to acknowledge the positive sensibilities and talents of members of Congress, our Founding Fathers envisioned a specific role for the Senate in foreign relations.

In Federalist Paper 64, John Jay wrote that the constitutional role of the Senate provides for integrity and deliberation: “Thus we see that the Constitution provides that our negotiations for treaties shall have every advantage which can be derived from talents, information, integrity and deliberate investigations, on the one hand, and from secrecy and despatch on the other.”

In other words, the ingenious design of the Constitution ought to override any partisan or policy differences. The minority party in 2013 understood this, and voted accordingly, supporting nomination of the majority party’s top diplomat, despite their many disagreements with him, because it was good for the country. Now, things have changed. Several Democrats on the committee have announced their intention to oppose the nomination of Pompeo to be President TrumpDonald John TrumpCDC updates website to remove dosage guidance on drug touted by Trump Trump says he'd like economy to reopen 'with a big bang' but acknowledges it may be limited Graham backs Trump, vows no money for WHO in next funding bill MORE’s secretary of State. They are opposed to his nomination not because he isn’t qualified, but because they disagree with him on policy issues, in many cases, domestic policy issues.

Let us note here that Pompeo is an excellent candidate for the job. He was first in his class at West Point, served in uniform during the Cold War, went to Harvard Law School, was a leader in business, and served as a congressman from Kansas. During his time as CIA director, both Democrats and Republicans have praised his job performance. He has the trust of the president, having been sent to North Korea a few days ago for the most difficult of diplomatic challenges.

If all the Democrats on the committee oppose his nomination, as may be the case, combined with the opposition of libertarian Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulRand Paul volunteering at hospital after negative coronavirus test Georgia governor says he didn't know asymptomatic people could spread coronavirus McConnell: Impeachment distracted government from coronavirus threat MORE (R-Ky.), Pompeo will receive a negative recommendation. That won’t stop his confirmation because enough Democrats will vote for him on the floor that he will be our next secretary of State. But the consequence of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee reporting his nomination negatively, on basically a party-line vote over domestic policy disagreements, will severely damage the trust between the Cabinet and the Senate in the conduct of diplomacy.

The loser will be the Senate, with its prerogatives and responsibilities, along with its ability to be a check on the possible excesses of this administration. For this reason, and because Pompeo is spectacularly qualified, members of the minority party on the committee should reconsider their vote and support him. It is in their own interests — and the country’s interest — to do so.

Lester Munson served as staff director of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee under Republican Chairman Bob Corker from 2013 to 2015.