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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 TrumpGiuliani used provisional ballot to vote in 2020 election, same method he disparaged in fighting to overturn results Trump gets lowest job approval rating in final days as president Fox News' DC managing editor Bill Sammon to retire MORE’s spy chief nominee, Rep. John RatcliffeJohn Lee RatcliffeHouse panels open review of Capitol riot Edward Snowden, the media, and the Espionage Act Overnight Defense: Top US general meets with Taliban | House panel launches probe into cyberattack | Army to issue face masks for soldiers in 2021 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 WarnerSocial media posts, cellphone data aid law enforcement investigations into riots 'Almost Heaven, West Virginia' — Joe Manchin and a 50-50 Senate Confirmation hearing for Biden's DNI pick postponed 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 CoatsSenate Intelligence Committee leaders warn of Chinese threats to national security New federal cybersecurity lead says 'rumor control' site will remain up through January Biden soars as leader of the free world 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 BluntUS Chamber of Commerce to stop supporting some lawmakers following the Capitol riots Senate to be briefed on inauguration security after Capitol attack This week: Democrats barrel toward Trump impeachment after Capitol attack 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 CollinsBiden's minimum wage push faces uphill battle with GOP GOP senators wrestle with purging Trump from party Impeachment trial tests Trump's grip on Senate GOP 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 Wyden3 ways Biden will reshape regulatory policy Biden tax-hike proposals face bumpy road ahead Section 230 worked after the insurrection, but not before: How to regulate social media MORE (D-Ore.) told reporters at the time.