Senate panel plans hearing next week for Trump’s intel chief pick
The Senate Intelligence Committee is preparing to hold a confirmation hearing next week for President Trump’s pick to be the next director of national intelligence, a source familiar confirmed to The Hill.
The hearing for Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-Texas) has not been finalized and the details of how to hold the committee meeting amid the coronavirus pandemic remain in flux.
The source indicated that there will be an announcement on safety precautions when the hearing, which was first reported by CNN, is officially announced.
The effort to move forward with Ratcliffe’s nomination is the latest sign that senators are trying to return to some version of normalcy as they prepare to come back to Washington on Monday.
The Senate Banking Committee is also expected to hold a nominations hearing next week, and Republicans on the Judiciary Committee are discussing a similar move.
The effort to move Ratcliffe’s nomination comes as Republicans and President Trump have pushed for swift confirmation after he was nominated in late February.
GOP senators, in particular, have signaled they are eager to have a Senate-confirmed director of national intelligence (DNI). The role has been filled by acting officials since former DNI Dan Coats stepped down in August. Acting DNI Richard Grenell is currently serving in the post.
But plans for a quick confirmation were thrown into limbo by the coronavirus, which has caused the Senate to take a five-week recess.
Ratcliffe is expected to spark a fierce fight in the Senate, where Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and other Democrats have publicly encouraged Republicans to help sink his nomination.
“The last time this nomination was unsuccessfully put forward, serious bipartisan questions were raised about Rep. Ratcliffe’s background and qualifications. It’s hard for me to see how anything new has happened to change that,” Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), the vice chairman of the Intelligence Committee, said in February.
Trump had initially signaled he would nominate Ratcliffe to replace Coats in 2019, but the Texas congressman withdrew himself from consideration amid scrutiny for inflating his résumé.
Republicans hold a 53-47 majority in the Senate, meaning they can get Ratcliffe confirmed if no more than three Republicans vote against him.
But they hold a one-seat margin on the Senate Intelligence Committee, putting a spotlight on Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), who is facing a tough reelection bid.
Collins declined to say last month how she would vote, but said she would look closely at Ratcliffe’s qualifications and consider his commitment to the nation’s intelligence community.
“I don’t know Congressman Ratcliffe. As the author of the 2004 law that created the director of national intelligence position, I obviously am very concerned about who the nominee is, the qualifications and the commitment to overseeing the intelligence community in order to provide the best-quality intelligence,” she told reporters.
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