US Senate panel narrowly endorses Pompeo after Trump intervenes

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Washington, April 24 (IANS) A US Senate panel has narrowly endorse Mike Pompeo as the new Secretary of State after President Donald Trump and a Republican Senator intervened at the last minute, the media reported.

Pompeo had seemed unlikely to secure a majority of the panel’s support. But Senator Rand Paul, who had pledged to oppose him, tweeted moments before the vote on Monday that Trump had talked with him and changed his mind, reports The Washington Post.

“Having received assurances from President Trump and Director Pompeo that he agrees with the President on these important issues, I have decided to support his nomination to be our next Secretary of State,” Paul said.

Paul’s key concern had been that Pompeo, currently director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), would not support Trump’s pledge to pull troops out of Afghanistan.

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The Kentucky Senator also had called on Pompeo “to support President Trump’s belief that the Iraq war was a mistake”.

Trump praised the Senator after his change of heart on Pompeo, saying Paul “never let me down” and that “he’s a good man”.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s voted 11 to 10 along party lines to endorse Pompeo.

Last year, 14 Democrats voted to confirm Pompeo as CIA director, but several have already stated that they will not back him to serve as Secretary of State.

On Monday, White House officials again urged Senate Democrats to support Pompeo’s nomination, Press Secretary Sarah Sanders saying that the administration hoped “that some members will change their minds”, The Washington Post reported.

Democrats have raised several objections to Pompeo’s nomination, arguing that his previous statements favouring the use of force over diplomatic options, his record of controversial quips about American Muslims and same-sex marriage, and concerns that he would not challenge Trump on matters of foreign policy made him unfit to serve as Secretary of State.

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Senate leaders are expected to put the nomination to a floor vote later this week.

The Senate has historically given deference to Presidents to choose their top diplomat, reports The New York Times.

President Barack Obama twice reached into the chamber’s ranks to choose a Secretary of State, elevating first Hillary Clinton then John F. Kerry for the role. Both received 94 votes to confirm their nominations, with opposition from only a handful of their Senate colleagues.

Pompeo’s predecessor Rex Tillerson was confirmed 56 to 43 by the Senate in February 2017.

He was approved by the Foreign Relations Committee by an 11-to-10 vote along party lines.

Trump fired Tillerson, a former oil executive, in March in favour of Pompeo.

–IANS

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