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 TrumpPredictions of disaster for Democrats aren't guarantees of midterm failure A review of President Biden's first year on border policy  Hannity after Jan. 6 texted McEnany 'no more stolen election talk' in five-point plan for Trump MORE’s spy chief nominee, Rep. John RatcliffeJohn Lee RatcliffeWe need scientific analysis of satellite data on UAP Set to make history on UFOs, Congress revives the '1 percent' doctrine This Thanksgiving, skip the political food fights and talk UFOs instead 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 WarnerCIA says 'Havana syndrome' unlikely a result of 'worldwide campaign' by foreign power Schumer opted for modest rules reform after pushback from moderates Biden moves to boost security of sensitive national security systems 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 CoatsAn independent commission should review our National Defense Strategy Overnight Hillicon Valley — Scrutiny over Instagram's impact on teens Former national security officials warn antitrust bills could help China in tech race 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 BluntSwalwell slams House Republican for touting funding in bill she voted down Johnson, Thune signal GOP's rising confidence Senate Minority Whip Thune, close McConnell ally, to run for reelection 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 CollinsManchin, Collins leading talks on overhauling election law, protecting election officials Schumer opted for modest rules reform after pushback from moderates Ossoff and Collins clash over her past support for voting rights legislation 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."

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 WydenDemocrats calls on Biden administration to ease entry to US for at-risk Afghans Schumer opted for modest rules reform after pushback from moderates Sanders, 50 Democrats unveil bill to send N95 masks to all Americans MORE (D-Ore.) told reporters at the time.