Three Democrats say they will vote to confirm CIA Director Mike Pompeo as secretary of State, all but assuring that the former congressman will have the Senate support to become the top U.S. diplomat.
Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.V., and Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., both announced their support for Pompeo on Monday. They are the second and third members of their party to back Pompeo, joining Sen. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota. All three lawmakers face re-election in November in states President Donald Trump won easily in 2016, and could have faced GOP attacks for opposing Trump's nominee.
Manchin announced his support for the former congressman from Kansas on Monday morning. He said he met with Pompeo and decided to support him after "discussing his foreign policy perspectives" and "considering his distinguished time as CIA Director and his exemplary career in public service."
In a statement Monday afternoon, Donnelly said the U.S. needs a secretary of State "who will give the president an honest assessment on critical issues, including Russia, Syria and the defeat of ISIS." He added that he believes Pompeo "is capable of advancing U.S. interests and leading leading the State Department."
The senators' support for Pompeo comes ahead of a Senate Foreign Relations Committee vote set for later Monday, during which the panel could report the nominee unfavorably to the full Senate. While it should not affect his ability to get confirmed, it is a symbolic blow. A Cabinet member has not gotten confirmed without the endorsement of a committee in decades, according to The Washington Post.
It is unclear when the whole Senate would vote on Pompeo's confirmation.
Republicans hold 51 seats in the Senate, and Pompeo needs a majority vote to get confirmed. Only 50 GOP senators are present with Sen. John McCain out of Washington fighting brain cancer. While opposition from Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and Democrats threatening to complicate Pompeo's confirmation, support from Manchin and Heitkamp would mean he has enough votes.
In a tweet Monday morning, Trump hit Democrats for their stance on Pompeo's nomination. He called it "hard to believe" that "obstructionists" may vote against Pompeo's confirmation.
"A majority of Democrats continue their pointless obstruction to score cheap political points with their base," White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said later Monday.
Democrats who have not backed Pompeo have expressed concerns about the diplomat potentially emboldening reckless behavior on Trump's part. Pompeo's opposition to the Iran nuclear deal and his role in helping to broker a potential summit between Trump and North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un have also sparked concerns among Democrats.
Sanders also said the White House does not think Paul is being "helpful" in opposing Pompeo. She highlighted bipartisan Senate support for recent secretary of State nominees, John Kerry, Hillary Clinton, Condoleezza Rice and Colin Powell, and questioned why Pompeo could not get similar backing.