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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 22 June 2018

Pompeo wins Senate committee vote on nomination

The current CIA director looks set to become secretary of state after getting 11 favourable votes and 10 in opposition

The road to the committee vote saw many dramatic turns until the last minute with Mr Pompeo getting 11 favourable votes and 10 in opposition
The road to the committee vote saw many dramatic turns until the last minute with Mr Pompeo getting 11 favourable votes and 10 in opposition

A last-minute change of vote after a direct intervention from Donald Trump helped CIA director Mike Pompeo avert a historic setback and gain approval from the senate foreign relations committee on Monday, ahead of becoming the next secretary of state.

The road to the committee vote saw many dramatic turns until the last minute with Mr Pompeo getting 11 favourable votes and 10 in opposition. The votes broke along party lines, as Republicans united in favour and Democrats in objecting. But it was the absence of Republican senator Johnny Isakson for personal reasons that complicated the voting process, until it was agreed that his vote would be counted by proxy.

Also, the libertarian Republican senator Rand Paul announced moments before the vote that he is reversing his position and will be supporting Mr Pompeo’s nomination.

The Republican senator tweeted that a call from Mr Trump has moved him the “yes” camp:

“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.”

In the last few weeks, Mr Paul had opposed the nomination. He referenced Mr Pompeo’s hawkish record on foreign policy, and possibly driving an interventionist agenda in the administration. But a call from the US president seemed to have assured the reluctant senator, that at least “Trump will be Trump”, and still considers “ the Iraq war was a mistake, and that it is time to leave Afghanistan.”

The CIA director supported the Iraq war in 2003, and he also is known for his hawkish views on Iran – he did not oppose recent US air strikes in Syria.

Mr Paul’s reversal is a win for Mr Trump in not only averting a historic snub by Mike Pompeo becoming the first nominee not to pass the committee since 1925, but also in keeping the Republicans unified on the committee.

Earlier in the morning Mr Trump tweeted: “Hard to believe Obstructionists May vote against Mike Pompeo for Secretary of State. The Dems will not approve hundreds of good people, including the Ambassador to Germany. They are maxing out the time on approval process for all, never happened before. Need more Republicans!”Mr Pompeo scored 11 out of 21 votes on the committee, an unprecedented low number, but enough to get him closer to becoming Secretary of State.

Democratic senators Chris Coons, Jeanne Shaheen, Bob Menendez, Ben Cardin,Tim Kaine, Chris Murphy, Tom Udall, Cory Booker, Ed Markey, and Jeff Merkley cited Mr Pompeo’s hawkish foreign policy views, past controversial comments he made about Muslim-American and the LGBT communities in justifying their stance.

Now, Mr Pompeo’s nomination goes to the Senate floor where he is expected to get a narrow majority and become the next US secretary of state.

Three Democratic senators from red states in will be casting their vote for Mr Pompeo, bringing him to at least 51 votes (simple majority) he needs to pass.

Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia announced his support on Monday following a meeting with Mr Pompeo:

Also, Joe Donnelly from Indiana issued a statement approving the nominee:

Heidi Heitkamp, whose seat is up for reelection in North Dakota will also be voting for Mr Pompeo.