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Todd Johnson / April 4, 2018

Two Big Confirmation Battles Loom

Pompeo for secretary of state and Haspel for CIA director are critical positions and both face opposition.

Later this month, we will see two critical Senate confirmation processes be initiated and both proceedings could end up to be very contentious. Mike Pompeo, the nominee for secretary of state, and Gina Haspel, the nominee for director of the CIA, are expected to be grilled by select Republican and Democrat senators who have raised concerns about their positions on critical issues.

Both Pompeo and Haspel are highly qualified but the landscape of the United States Senate has changed significantly since President Trump took office in January 2016. While Republicans will be able to push the two nominations out of the respective committees for a floor vote, there isn’t a guarantee that the nominees will be confirmed. Currently, the GOP holds a 51-49 edge in the Senate, but with Rand Paul going on record saying he doesn’t support either nominee and John McCain’s cancer treatment regimen keeping him on the sidelines since December, the Republican Party has very little margin for error.

An analysis of the two nominations shows that the Pompeo proceedings will be the most combative. While he was confirmed for the CIA director position last year by a 66-32 vote, several Democrats have announced either reconsidering their votes or that they remain on the fence until he testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Recent reports indicate that Pompeo will face a brutal confirmation fight. And even if he makes it through the questioning with no major errors, his nomination may still face obstacles. If Paul and all of the Democrats on the Foreign Relations Committee cast a “no” vote, then the Republican Party leadership would be forced to use an obscure rule that would still allow the nomination for a Senate-wide vote.

This type of maneuver has never been utilized in the history of the Senate and would, according to Foreign Policy magazine, “be the first time in modern history a secretary of state nominee moves to a Senate-wide vote without the approval of the foreign relations committee.”

The Haspel nomination, on the other hand, looks to be the easier fight for the Republican Party, but not by very much. Haspel, a decorated career intelligence officer, is expected to face numerous questions from the Senate Intelligence Committee pertaining to her oversight of the CIA’s black-site interrogation program in Thailand. The program, where waterboarding was conducted on a regular basis, has drawn the attention of numerous Republican and Democrat committee members and will be the topic of much of the questioning of Haspel.

According to numerous reports, Haspel is considered by her peers as the consummate professional and has the skillset to lead the CIA. However, as Rich Lowry pointed out last week, Republicans must ensure that her nomination doesn’t degenerate into a 21st century “Borking.”

The U.S. foreign and intelligence communities need proven leadership that can guide them against the plethora of threats that face our nation on a daily basis. A failure with either nomination would be a severe blow to the country as a whole. That’s why the Trump administration must put all of its energies into ensuring that both Pompeo and Haspel are confirmed.

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