You need to read Ed’s post from this morning to see why the pressure on Paul to flip was so intense. He’s the deciding vote on the Foreign Relations Committee, and since all Democrats are voting no, that means Pompeo was facing a rare thumbs down from the FRC. That in itself would be embarrassing but no bar to confirmation thanks to a few red-state Democrats like Joe Manchin flipping to yes in the full Senate vote. Just one problem: If the FRC voted not to recommend Pompeo for confirmation, that would give Democrats the option of mounting a filibuster before the entire Senate voted. Then McConnell would have to either pass another rule nuking the filibuster, a la the GOP did prior to Neil Gorsuch’s confirmation, or Trump would need to admit defeat on Pompeo and yank his nomination. And with the margin as tight as 51/49 and Paul on the other side, there’s no guarantee McConnell would get the 50 votes he needed.

All of which is to say, with Paul joining Team Blue because of Pompeo’s hawkishness towards Iran and previous support for enhanced interrogation, this was either going to be anywhere from a major embarrassment for POTUS and his team or a major disaster. Unless, of course, Paul flipped at the last second before the FRC.

Lo and behold:

Trump and McConnell usually let Paul go his own way since his vote is rarely absolutely needed. In return Paul is smart enough never to say anything too critical about POTUS. (Even in the tweets above, he positions himself as a defender of Trump’s foreign policy vision more so than his own.) But they absolutely needed him today. No margin for error. So Paul bit his lip, let Pompeo give him an eleventh-hour assurance that he believes whatever Paul needs him to believe, and now Pompeo will get the Foreign Relations Committee’s recommendation.

And now the pain from Democrats and libertarians begins.

That’s more tolerable for Paul than the pain from Trump fans would have been, especially with the White House throwing roundhouses by wondering why he couldn’t manage a vote for Pompeo for Secretary of State when he managed to vote for (shudder) John Kerry for the same position. Stand by for fallout and the Committee vote, which is now a foregone conclusion.

Update: And there it is. The Committee recommends Pompeo. What’s the point of having Rand Paul on the Foreign Relations Committee if not to block nominees like this?