Senate panel approves Trump nominee for spy chief
The Senate Intelligence Committee voted on Tuesday to approve President Trump’s spy chief nominee, Rep. John Ratcliffe (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 Warner (D-Va.), the vice chairman of the committee.
The party-line vote is a shift from the panel’s 14-2 approval for former DNI Dan Coats, 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 Blunt (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 Collins (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.”
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 Wyden (D-Ore.) told reporters at the time.
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