April 22, 2018 / 1:47 PM / a month ago

More Democrats back Pompeo for U.S. State Dept, confirmation likely

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Two more Democratic senators announced their support on Monday for Republican President Donald Trump’s pick as secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, all but assuring the CIA director will be confirmed for the position as soon as this week.

Democrats Joe Manchin and Joe Donnelly declared they would back Pompeo, hours before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee was expected to take an unprecedented vote against him.

Manchin of West Virginia and Donnelly of Indiana joined Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota as the first three Senate Democrats in supporting the nominee. All are up for re-election this year in states that supported Trump in 2016.

“After meeting with Mike Pompeo, discussing his foreign policy perspectives, & considering his distinguished time as CIA Director & his exemplary career in public service, I will vote to confirm Mike Pompeo to be our next Secretary of State,” Manchin wrote on Twitter.

The Foreign Relations panel was due to vote later on Monday on Pompeo, and he could become the first secretary of state nominee not to win the panel’s support. A majority of committee members - all 10 Democrats, plus Republican Rand Paul - have voiced opposition to Pompeo.

A negative vote by the committee, which oversees the State Department, could shadow at least his first months in office. But Pompeo looks likely to win confirmation from the full Senate nonetheless.

CIA Director Mike Pompeo, President Donald Trump's nominee to be Secretary of State, leaves a meeting with Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., April 18, 2018. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein

Republicans have a 51-49 Senate majority. But with Paul a firm “no” and Senator John McCain absent due to illness, Pompeo can receive at most 49 Republican votes.

The votes of the three Democrats all but assure Pompeo will get enough votes in the 100-seat chamber to be confirmed.

The Senate confirmed Pompeo as CIA director last year with a 66-32 vote. He has since become one of Trump’s most trusted advisers.

Critics say Pompeo is too conservative to represent the country on the world stage, given past harsh remarks about Islam and homosexuality and fears he would favour military action over diplomacy and be too likely to agree with Trump rather than step back and give his best advice to the commander in chief.

CIA Director Mike Pompeo testifies before a Senate Foreign Relations Committee confirmation hearing on Pompeo's nomination to be secretary of state on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., April 12, 2018. REUTERS/Leah Millis

Backers point to Pompeo’s summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un as proof he believes in diplomacy, and say the United States needs the top diplomat’s role to be filled as quickly as possible amid burgeoning world crises.

Additional reporting by Makini Brice; Editing by Tim Ahmann, Bill Trott and Jonathan Oatis

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