Senate braces for brawl over Trump's spy chief

President Trump’s pick to be his next spy chief is facing a fierce political battle, injecting uncertainty into his confirmation chances.  

Democrats are signaling they will oppose Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-Texas) to be the director of national intelligence, marking a change from previous nominees who have been confirmed with easy bipartisan majorities. 

Republicans hold a 53-47 edge in the Senate, so it would take four GOP defections with unified Democratic opposition to deny Ratcliffe’s confirmation. 

That seems like a high bar for his opponents to reach, though it is notable that a number of key Republicans are not offering immediate support for Trump’s nominee. 


Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) opposed current Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats’s nomination in 2017. He hasn’t yet commented on Ratcliffe’s nomination and is one potential GOP “no” vote.  Several members of the Senate Intelligence Committee have declined to weigh in on Ratcliffe. Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) said he plans to quickly move the nomination once it’s official but hasn’t offered an explicit endorsement of Ratcliffe.  

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), a committee member, praised Ratcliffe as “intelligent” and having a “great background” but signaled he’d wait to weigh in on his nomination until after the confirmation process.  
“It’s one of the most important jobs in the federal government, so I certainly think he’s talented enough, but for someone who is coming before a committee that I sit on, I want to go through that process before I opine,” Rubio said.  

Republicans have an 8-7 majority on the Intelligence panel, meaning a single defection could cost Ratcliffe the committee vote. That would not prevent his eventual confirmation.

Ratcliffe, a three-term congressman and former federal prosecutor, has faced a wave of criticism for his dearth of intelligence credentials, and his opponents argue he lacks the experience to fulfill the role effectively. Ratcliffe sits on the House Intelligence, Judiciary and Homeland Security committees, but has limited national security experience when compared to past nominees.  


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