Senate panel approves Trump nominee for spy chief

Senate panel approves Trump nominee for spy chief
© AP/Pool

The Senate Intelligence Committee voted on Tuesday to approve President TrumpDonald John TrumpSessions accepts 'Fox News Sunday' invitation to debate, Tuberville declines Priest among those police cleared from St. John's Church patio for Trump visit Trump criticizes CNN on split-screen audio of Rose Garden address, protesters clashing with police MORE’s spy chief nominee, Rep. John RatcliffeJohn Lee RatcliffeTrump asserts his power over Republicans Flynn urged Russian diplomat to have 'reciprocal' response to Obama sanctions, new transcripts show READ: Newly declassified transcripts of Flynn calls with Russia ambassador MORE (R-Texas).

Three members of the panel confirmed coming out of the closed-door vote that the panel had advanced to Ratcliffe’s nomination to the full Senate for a confirmation vote. If confirmed, the Texas Republican will be the next Director of National Intelligence (DNI).

“It was a straight party-line vote,” said Sen. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerTrump asserts his power over Republicans Expanding tax credit for businesses retaining workers gains bipartisan support Senate Democrats pump brakes on new stimulus checks MORE (D-Va.), the vice chairman of the committee.

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The party-line vote is a shift from the panel's 14-2 approval for former DNI Dan CoatsDaniel (Dan) Ray CoatsGerman lawmaker, US ambassador to Germany trade jabs Intelligence agencies have hired outside consultants to improve communication with Trump: report Senate confirms Ratcliffe to be Trump's spy chief MORE, who stepped down last year.

Ratcliffe could lose as many as three GOP senators during the floor vote and still be confirmed. No Republican has said they will oppose him.

Sen. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntWashington prepares for a summer without interns GOP faces internal conflicts on fifth coronavirus bill Senators weigh traveling amid coronavirus ahead of Memorial Day MORE (R-Mo.) indicated that it was unlikely the Senate would be able to vote on Ratcliffe’s nomination before leaving for a weeklong Memorial Day break, set to begin Thursday.

Ratcliffe’s approval by the panel was all but guaranteed after Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsTrump expected to visit Maine despite governor's concerns Democrats gear up to hit GOP senators on DACA OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Trump administration gives renewables more time to take advantage of tax credits | House Republicans introduce bill to speed mining projects for critical minerals | Watchdog faults EPA communications in contamination of NC river MORE (R-Maine) announced that she would support him.

"I interviewed him at great length over the phone when we were out of Washington," Collins told The Hill. "I asked him then and again yesterday a series of tough questions about whether he would be independent, present unvarnished analysis to the president and Congress, and he said he would."

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Collins, who faces a tough reelection vote this year, was viewed as the committee’s most likely swing vote.

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.

But during his confirmation hearing, Ratcliffe vowed that he would be independent if confirmed to be DNI. The position has been filled in an acting capacity since Coats stepped down in August 2019.

His assurances failed to move Democrats, who said that Ratcliffe failed to answer their questions during a committee hearing earlier this month.

"He was ... very well briefed but I just don't see any evidence that he's going to speak truth to power," Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenHouse Republican offers bill to create 'return to work bonus' On The Money: Senate Dems pump brakes on new stimulus checks | Trump officials sued over tax refunds | Fed to soon open small-business lending program Senate Democrats pump brakes on new stimulus checks MORE (D-Ore.) told reporters at the time.