April 23 (UPI) — The Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted to recommend CIA Director Mike Pompeo’s nomination for secretary of state Monday.
Pompeo’s nomination will now go to the Senate, which is expected to confirm him to replace Rex Tillerson in the nation’s top diplomatic post.
The recommendation by the Senate committee was unexpected by some due to opposition by Democrats and Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky. But Paul, who voiced opposition to Pompeo’s support of the use of torture in interrogations, mass surveillance of American citizens by the National Security Agency, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, decided to vote with his party.
“President Trump believes that Iraq was a mistake, that regime change has destabilized the region, and that we must end our involvement with Afghanistan,” Paul tweeted. “Having received assurances from President Trump and Director Pompeo that he agrees with the President on these important issues, I have decided to support his nomination to be our next Secretary of State.”
The Senate committee vote was 11-9 in favor of recommending Pompeo, with Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., voting present. CNN reported that Coons voted present because Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., wasn’t able to attend the vote due to a friend’s funeral and the Delaware Democrat wanted to move the nomination out of committee.
GOP Senate members are expected to vote in favor of Pompeo’s nomination, as are several Democrats facing re-election in red states.
In confirmation hearings, Pompeo said he opposes same-sex marriage, which prompted Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., to lead the Democrats in opposing the nominee.
As CIA director, Pompeo has called for a military strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities and has expressed a hope that North Korea leader Kim Jong Un will soon be driven from power. While many Democrats regard him as extreme, they add that he has not shown independence from Trump.
Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer of New York has urged Democratic centrists to postpone any potential support for Pompeo — hoping to get concessions from Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, possibly on a resolution indicating support for special counsel Robert Mueller.
More than 25 Democrats in the Senate have expressed opposition to Pompeo’s nomination, including five who approved him as CIA director in January 2017. Several have said Pompeo’s hawkish advocacy could hinder U.S. diplomacy.
The Senate is comprised of 51 Republicans and 49 Democrats, with one, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., receiving cancer treatment and unable to vote.