It’s all over but the shouting. Or is it? With a critical committee vote coming this afternoon, another red-state Democrat has added his name to Heidi Heitkamp’s, all but ensuring a majority for Mike Pompeo’s confirmation vote. Sen. Joe Manchin announced that he would honor the CIA director’s “exemplary career” by voting in his favor. Assuming, that is, that Manchin and Heitkamp get the opportunity:
After meeting with Mike Pompeo, discussing his foreign policy perspectives, & considering his distinguished time as CIA Director & his exemplary career in public service, I will vote to confirm Mike Pompeo to be our next Secretary of State.
— Senator Joe Manchin (@Sen_JoeManchin) April 23, 2018
And with that, Josh Kraushaar predicts, other red-state Democrats in the Senate will have enough cover to flip to Pompeo:
Expect the other red state Ds to follow suit in short order.
Pompeo vote: A no brainer politically for those Ds in tough races. https://t.co/ng12RsFPja
— Josh Kraushaar (@HotlineJosh) April 23, 2018
And not long afterward …
Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) on Monday became the third Democrat to say he will vote for CIA Director Mike Pompeo to be President Trump’s next secretary of State.
“We need a Secretary of State who will give the president an honest assessment on critical issues, including Russia, Syria, and the defeat of ISIS. I believe Director Pompeo is capable of advancing U.S. interests and leading the State Department,” Donnelly said in a statement.
Theoretically, that’s the ballgame even if no one else flips. Even with Rand Paul sticking to his opposition to Pompeo, Jeff Flake’s Hamlet act, and John McCain’s potential absence, the trio of Democrats brings the Pompeo vote back to 51. McCain’s support for Pompeo would suggest that Flake will likely vote in his favor, albeit with some reluctance. But at this point, assuming that Pompeo gets to a floor vote, Mike Pence can take the afternoon off.
In practice, though, Mitch McConnell needs as many flips as possible. If Paul refuses to change his mind on Pompeo, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee will deliver a negative report on the nomination, which could — could — allow Chuck Schumer to demand a 60-vote cloture motion to proceed to a final floor vote on Pompeo. In that case, McConnell will need nine more Democrats to clear that hurdle. Having more Democrats line up behind Pompeo would take the steam out of that effort, and other Democrats might object to the obstructionism as well as to Pompeo, mooting such an effort. Schumer might still threaten it to get McConnell to offer a concession; The Hill’s Alexander Bolton suggested that one might be a “sense of the Senate” resolution supporting Robert Mueller. That and $5 will get you an overpriced cup of coffee at Starbucks, but both sides would want to come away from this with something.
All of this could be avoided, of course, by having Rand Paul reverse himself and vote in support of Pompeo in committee. At least so far, though, he’s standing on his principles, which somehow include voting to approve John Kerry to the same job, both on the final floor vote and in the unanimous recommendation out of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee the same day. If Paul has an explanation for the different application of his principles, he’s thus far been shy about offering it.
There is one other possibility. If enough red-state Democrats commit to supporting Pompeo in a floor vote, will Democrats on the committee want to stick them with the potential embarrassment of voting for someone who got a negative recommendation? Perhaps Chris Coons might reconsider and at least abstain in committee while voting against Pompeo in the floor vote. It’s a long shot, but it’s still possible, and there are at least three Democrats who wouldn’t mind the political cover.
Update: As expected, Jeff Flake is a yes:
SCOOP: Senator Jeff Flake intends to vote in favor of Mike Pompeo before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee this afternoon, according to multiple sources familiar
— Trey Yingst (@TreyYingst) April 23, 2018
What does Rand Paul do now?