The Senate easily confirmed Mike Pompeo to be the next secretary of State on Thursday, but Democrats in the most competitive 2018 races delivered a split decision on the current CIA director.
The chamber confirmed Pompeo to the top diplomatic post, 57-42, after an identical vote to limit debate on the nomination.
Among the 10 Democrats running in states President Donald Trump won in 2016, five voted to confirm Pompeo and five voted against the nomination.
Watch: Senate Votes to Confirm Pompeo as Top Diplomat
Heitkamp, Donnelly and Manchin declared their support for Pompeo early in the process, while Tester came out against the nominee on Monday.
Donnelly’s statement of support was among those to highlight the situation on the Korean peninsula. Pompeo made a secret trip to North Korea as CIA director that became public at what was likely a good point in the confirmation debate.
“When I met with Director Pompeo, we had a productive conversation about the complex security challenges we face, including the dangerous threat posed by North Korea’s nuclear missile program. I strongly believe that a successful, peaceful outcome will require a comprehensive strategy and a full team on the field, including an effective State Department, to leverage all available tools,” Donnelly said.
Around the time the Senate reached a deal Wednesday to allow for lunch hour votes on Pompeo, several more members of the Democratic caucus announced their positions. That included Nelson, who announced his decision to Florida news media outlets, including the Miami Herald.
Nelson had opposed Pompeo’s nomination to his CIA post last year, and has said he thought he would be overly political for that job.
McCaskill, who is also among the Democrats most targeted by Republicans, cast votes in support of Pompeo as she had for his CIA job.
Missouri’s Republican Attorney General Josh Hawley, who is challenging McCaskill this year, put out a web ad on Tuesday questioning whether the incumbent Democratic senator would flip her position on Pompeo from her vote in his favor for the CIA post.
“Will Senator McCaskill ignore her liberal donors and support Mike Pompeo for Secretary of State, or will she stick with Chuck Schumer and continue to obstruct the President?” Hawley campaign spokesperson Kelli Ford said. “It is deeply troubling how focused Senator McCaskill is on doing what’s politically convenient, instead of doing what’s right.”
McCaskill said later Thursday that it was Defense Secretary James Mattis who actually sold her on Pompeo. “While I have grave reservations about Mr. Pompeo’s rhetoric when he was a Congressman, I supported his nomination based on his work leading and defending the intelligence community and the strong recommendation of Secretary Mattis. Secretary Mattis has assured me that Mr. Pompeo has been willing to speak truth to power in critical situations involving the President,” she said in a statement. “It was that information that ultimately persuaded me.”
Baldwin had announced her opposition in a statement released on Twitter following a meeting with President Donald Trump’s secretary of State nominee. She expressed a belief he might not have the proper disposition for the job.
“I am concerned that he is inclined to choose military force as a first option over diplomatic solutions to the many challenges we face around the world,” said Baldwin.
That decision drew quick rebukes from both of the key Republican campaigns seeking the chance to run against Baldwin in November, those of state Sen. Leah Vukmir and Wisconsin businessman Kevin Nicholson, according to the Journal Sentinel.
Among the 2018 class, Democrat Tim Kaine of Virginia also voted against Pompeo.
Sen. Angus King, a Maine independent who caucuses with the Democrats who also faces voters this year, decided to support Pompeo’s move to Foggy Bottom, explaining his rationale in a detailed statement a day ahead of floor action.
King said that across-the-board agreement with the president’s nominee on policy questions should not be the standard.
“Republicans certainly didn’t agree with Senator John Kerry’s positions on many issues in 2013, but they nonetheless voted overwhelmingly to confirm him for Secretary of State; similarly for the majority of Democrats who voted to confirm Condoleezza Rice in 2005 in spite of her central role in the decision to invade Iraq two years earlier,” King said. “For that matter, until last year every Secretary of State nominee of either party for the past 50 years has received broad bipartisan support for their confirmation.”
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Bridget Bowman contributed to this report.