Opposition mounting to CIA Director Mike Pompeo's bid to become secretary of State

Key Points
  • CIA chief Mike Pompeo, President Donald Trump's pick to become the next secretary of State, is facing challenges in becoming America's top diplomat.
  • Pompeo now waits for the 51 U.S. Senate votes that he needs in order to move to State.
Here's how reporter broke the story about CIA Director Pompeo's trip to North Korea

Despite having carried out a secret diplomatic meeting in North Korea, Mike Pompeo is facing challenges at home in becoming America's next top diplomat.

Pompeo is a hard-line Republican, former businessman turned politician and President Donald Trump's pick to replace Rex Tillerson as secretary of State. Ahead of his nomination, Pompeo served as CIA director and delivered Trump's intelligence briefing nearly every day. He has been quoted saying that the president "asks really hard questions."

Pompeo, 54, now waits for the 51 U.S. Senate votes that he needs in order to be confirmed as the country's top diplomat.

Earlier this week, Republican Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said he hopes to hold a vote as early as next week.

Currently, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky is the lone Republican on the committee who has announced that he will not vote in favor of Pompeo.

Paul said Pompeo's support for the Iraq War and enhanced interrogation techniques were in contradiction to the Trump administration.

"I'm perplexed by the nomination of people who love the Iraq War so much that they would advocate for a war with Iran next," Paul said last month. "It goes against most of the things President Trump campaigned on, that the unintended consequences of regime change in Iraq led to instability in the Middle East."

If Paul does not change his position, Pompeo would be short of the votes needed to win the recommendation from the Foreign Relations Committee, which means he'd need Democrats to step up.

But there have yet to be any Democrats to come out in his favor.

Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, Republican Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas said that Democrats were operating under "blind partisanship."

"It's no good thing though to continue to have an electoral grudge when you're talking about foreign policy and national security," Cotton said. "If anything they [Democrats] should want to have a professional like Mike Pompeo as the Secretary of State representing the United States interests abroad."

The math for Pompeo to be confirmed as secretary of State

Notably, Pompeo can still be confirmed by the full Senate without support from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

However, that would make him the first nominee, at least since votes were made public in 1925, to not win the panel's favorable recommendation.

Sen. Robert Menendez, the top Democrat on the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, became the latest member of the committee to announce his opposition to the appointment. The senator from New Jersey also criticized Pompeo for failing to disclose his recent trip to North Korea in meetings with lawmakers.

"I believe our nation's top diplomat must be forthright, and more critically his past sentiments did not reflect our nation's values and are not acceptable for our nation's top diplomat," Menendez said Wednesday at a discussion at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

"Which is why ... I'll be casting a 'no' vote for Director Pompeo to be our secretary of State," he said.

Currently, there are only two senators on the committee who have not publicly shared their upcoming decision on confirming Pompeo. Republican Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona said he wants to speak once more with Pompeo before voting. Likewise, Democratic Sen. Christopher Coons of Delaware is also undecided.

Meanwhile, here's a breakdown of the senators for Pompeo's nomination:

  • Republican Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming
  • Republican Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado
  • Republican Sen. Johnny Isakson of Georgia
  • Republican Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin
  • Republican Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio
  • Republican Sen. James Risch of Idaho
  • Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida
  • Republican Sen. Todd Young of Indiana
  • Republican Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee

And those against:

  • Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire
  • Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia
  • Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut
  • Democratic Sen. Tom Udall of New Mexico
  • Democratic Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey
  • Democratic Sen. Ed Markey of Massachusetts
  • Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon
  • Democratic Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland
  • Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky

— Reuters contributed to this report.

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