Senate Intel Panel Advances Ratcliffe Nomination In Party-Line Vote

Rep. John Ratcliffe, R-Texas, testifies before a Senate Intelligence Committee nomination hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, May. 5, 2020. The panel is considering Ratcliffe's nomination for director of national intelligence.

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Rep. John Ratcliffe, R-Texas, testifies before a Senate Intelligence Committee nomination hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, May. 5, 2020. The panel is considering Ratcliffe's nomination for director of national intelligence.

The former Texas prosecutor is a deeply controversial pick for the nation’s top spy.

The Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday morning voted behind closed doors to advance the nomination of Texas lawmaker Rep. John Ratcliffe, R, to be director of national intelligence. 

Ratcliffe’s nomination is deeply controversial. The vote fell along a 8-7 party line, according to a spokesman for acting committee chairman Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., a rare occurrence in a vote for the nation’s top spy. 

The former Texas prosecutor is known as a staunch defender of Trump in the House and an architect of some of the House GOP’s most aggressive investigations into alleged wrongdoing inside the intelligence community, seen by critics as deeply partisan. Last year, he was withdrawn from consideration for the post when Trump first tapped him, after it appeared that he had embellished an already-thin national security resume. 

But Republicans who were tepid on his nomination the first time around — including committee chairman Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., who stepped down from that position last week amid an FBI investigation into his stock trades — have warmed in the months since. Prior to the stock scandal, Burr indicated he would support Ratcliffe’s nomination. He is now poised for confirmation by the full Senate, with no Republicans known to oppose his confirmation. 

The GOP-controlled chamber seems unlikely to reject him, in part out of a desire to install a permanent ODNI rather than another in the series of acting directors who have served since Dan Coats left last summer. Trump loyalist Richard Grenell, the U.S. ambassador to Germany, currently serves as acting director. 

At his nomination hearing earlier this month, Ratcliffe was pressed about his independence by almost every Democrat on the socially-distanced dais. In response, the nominee offered deferential thanks for their questions and sought to give unequivocal answers. He repeatedly sought to reassure committee Democrats — to little avail — that he would not mix politics with intelligence.

“I won’t shade intelligence for anyone,” he said. “If confirmed as the DNI, you have my commitment to deliver accurate and objective intelligence, and to speak truth to power, be that with this committee or within the administration.”

No date has been publicly set for the full Senate’s vote. The Senate leaves at the end of the week for a week-long Memorial Day recess and won’t return until June.

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