Former CIA director Mike Pompeo is expected to face a testy Senate confirmation hearing Thursday as he vies to become the next secretary of state.
Democrats on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee have vowed to question Pompeo, know for his hawkish views, where he stands on major policy issues including military action in Syria, a nuclear summit with North Korea and the fate of the nuclear deal with Iran. Given his tight-knit relationship with President Donald Trump, Democrats want to know whether he can put partisan politics aside, committee aides have told ABC News.
On Sunday, the top Democrat on the committee, Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey, said in a statement that he expects to hear Pompeo “articulate an actual policy for Syria” – as the president threatens a targeted missile strike on the war-torn country.
Chairman Bob Corker, R-Tenn., said so far he’s impressed by Pompeo. After meeting with him last month, Corker promised the committee would move on his nomination as “expeditiously as possible.”
Tom Brenner/The New York Times via ReduxCIA Director Mike Pompeo meets with Sen. Bob Corker on Capitol Hill in Washington, March 19, 2018.
Pompeo can also expect questions on his character and his qualifications. Democrats have been quick to point out that his former role as the nation’s top spy is notably different from what would be required of him as the nation’s top diplomat.
Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., who met with Pompeo on Monday, was asked by reporters if he came away from their meeting thinking Pompeo was well-versed in world affairs. Cardin simply responded: “No.”
“In a couple areas, he professed he did not know the current status,” Cardin said, but he went on to say Pompeo was knowledgeable about intelligence issues, and that he hasn’t had much time to get up to speed.
The Anti-Defamation League has also raised concerns about what it says is Pompeo’s record of anti-Muslim and anti-LGBT rhetoric.
In a letter sent to the committee on Monday, ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt called on Pompeo to repudiate some of his views.
“Mr. Pompeo’s long, documented record of anti-Muslim prejudice threatens to undermine the essential work our Secretary of State does in representing American interests and values abroad,” Greenblatt said.
“In our view, it is essential for the nominee to repudiate his past anti-LGBT and anti-Muslim views and to renounce any associations with anti-Muslim conspiracy-haunted organizations.”
The path to confirmation as the next secretary of state looks to be razor thin.
Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA via ShutterstockPresident Trump’s nominee for Secretary of State Mike Pompeo listens to the President speak to the media before a meeting with his cabinet in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington April 9, 2018.
Most Democrats have already announced they will not support Pompeo’s confirmation. At least one Republican, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, has also said he is voting “no.”
And with Sen. John McCain still battling brain cancer and away from Capitol Hill, at least one Democrat will have to join with Republicans to see his confirmation through.
But before the full Senate will vote on his confirmation, the Foreign Relations panel will also have to weigh in. It’s unclear at this time if Pompeo even has the votes to clear the 21-member panel since Paul, as a member of the committee, is a “no.”
Very few nominations have proceeded without approval from committees, but chamber rules make it possible that the full Senate can still vote on Pompeo’s confirmation should he receive an unfavorable recommendation or no recommendation at all.
If confirmed, Pompeo would replace Rex Tillerson, who was one of the shortest-serving secretaries of state.
Trump ousted Tillerson thanks to a fraught relationship further marred by disagreements on major foreign policy issues involving Iran, North Korea, climate and trade, as well as reports that Tillerson had called the president a “moron.”
Meanwhile, Pompeo and Trump are fast friends.
While serving as CIA director, Trump requested Pompeo to give him his intelligence briefings in person multiple times per week.
Pompeo, who served as a member of the House prior to being named CIA director, was confirmed by the Senate in 2017 in a 66-32 vote, with a majority of Democrats voting against him.
Pompeo will once again need a majority vote to secure confirmation in the Senate.