Washington (AFP) – US Republicans are pushing for a confirmation vote next week on Mike Pompeo becoming secretary of state, even though his nomination may not receive majority support in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Some key Republicans say Pompeo, who currently heads the Central Intelligence Agency, is likely to be confirmed by the full Senate, as he made the rare move of privately courting Democrats who do not serve on the committee but whose support he might need for his confirmation.
Senator John Thune, the chamber’s number three Republican, told AFP that the goal was to press forward with a floor vote, and that “yes, I do” believe Pompeo would be confirmed.
The United States has been without a full-fledged secretary of state since March 22, when the fired Rex Tillerson’s duties were passed to a deputy.
Senator Bob Corker, who chairs the powerful foreign relations panel, has signalled a likely committee vote on Pompeo early next week, and he said the Trump administration was hoping for confirmation before a one-week Senate recess begins April 28.
“It’s possible” that the Senate will force a vote on Pompeo even if he fails to clear the committee with a majority, Corker told reporters.
Such a move would be quite rare, especially since the Senate historian’s office has said no secretary of state nominee has received an unfavorable committee vote since 1925.
“But again the first step is to get through the committee, and we’ll see how that ends up.”
That vote is looking increasingly tough. The committee is made up of 11 Republicans and 10 Democrats. Republican Senator Rand Paul has already announced his opposition, while no Democrats have publicly declared their support.
A handful of Democrats on the panel have said they will oppose Pompeo, whose nomination has come to be seen by some as a broader vote on President Donald Trump’s foreign policy positions.
Senator Tim Kaine voted to confirm Pompeo to the CIA post last year, but said he will oppose him for the State Department.
“I believe that Mike Pompeo would exacerbate President Trump’s weaknesses rather than uphold our diplomatic legacy,” Kaine said in a statement.
Pompeo would need 51 votes in the 100-member chamber. Republicans hold 51 seats, but with Paul opposed and Senator John McCain away from Washington indefinitely as he battles brain cancer, at least some Democratic support would be needed to cross the finish line.
Pompeo met with foreign relations members in recent weeks, but has begun to reach out to other Democrats as well.
Moderate Democratic Senator Doug Jones said he could meet soon with Pompeo and had “an open mind” about him.
The focus is expected to turn to a handful of Democrats who face re-election this November in states that Trump won in 2016, such as Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota.