Senate panel likely to reject Pompeo for State as Democrats balk

Washington (AFP) –


President Donald Trump's secretary of State pick Mike Pompeo is likely to be rejected by a Senate panel after all its Democrats opposed his nomination, but he may still win final confirmation next week.

Senator Chris Coons on Friday became the last Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to announce his position.

The panel has 11 Republicans and 10 Democrats.

With Republican Rand Paul joining all the Democrats in opposition, Pompeo is now expected to be reported unfavorably out of committee -- a rare result -- despite a full court press by the White House to get him across the line.

"I do not make this decision lightly or without reservations," Coons said in a statement.

While he was convinced Pompeo, who currently heads the CIA, would help improve conditions for career professionals at the State Department, "I remain concerned that Director Pompeo will not challenge the president in critical moments."

Coons said he worried that Pompeo "will embolden, rather than moderate or restrain, President Trump's most belligerent and dangerous instincts."

The committee's Republican chairman, Senator Bob Corker, has scheduled a Monday panel vote.

Regardless of the outcome, Corker is expected to report the nominee to the full Senate for a vote. The White House is eager to see a final vote next week, before Congress goes on a one-week recess.

Pompeo, a former congressman, has promised to "push back" against Russian aggression. And he made headlines this week when it emerged that he secretly traveled to North Korea and met with leader Kim Jong Un ahead of a planned Kim-Trump summit.

But Democrats have warned Pompeo could be excessively partisan, something Corker sought to knock back on Thursday.

"I realize my Democratic friends in many cases feel like that in supporting Pompeo, it's a proxy for support of the Trump administration policies, which many of them abhor," Corker said.

But he insisted there was no one in Washington "that has more current knowledge about the threats" today than Pompeo.

He still has a shot at confirmation. Republicans hold 51 of the chamber's 100 seats.

With Senator John McCain out indefinitely as he battles cancer, and Paul opposed, Pompeo would need support from just one Democrat if all other Republicans back the nominee.

On Thursday, Senator Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, who is up for reelection in November in a state won handily by Trump in 2016, announced her support for Pompeo.

Republican Senator Jeff Flake, meanwhile, has said he remained undecided.

Pompeo has been quietly courting other Senate Democrats from red states in his hopes to win a majority.