The White House was hoping for a smooth 2018 on Capitol Hill. Instead, President Donald Trump is staring at two bitter confirmation fights — and the possibility emboldened Democrats could block his new Cabinet nominees.
Trump’s decision to nominate CIA Director Mike Pompeo to replace Rex Tillerson at the State Department — and to elevate Pompeo’s controversial deputy Gina Haspel, who hasn’t previously been confirmed — has created a pair of high-stakes battles in the Senate, where the GOP enjoys a threadbare 51-49 advantage.
With Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) opposing both nominees and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) absent while he undergoes treatment for brain cancer, Trump will need Democrats to support his picks.
The looming struggle to get Cabinet replacements through underscores just how much the political calculus has changed for Trump since the early days of his administration, as Democrats look ahead to the midterms and throw off any semblance of cooperation with the White House.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), for example, supported Pompeo to be CIA director, as did 14 of his colleagues in the minority. Democrats say Pompeo will fall far short of that — if he gets any Democratic support at all.
“Both of them have serious questions to answer and neither confirmation is a sure thing,” Schumer told POLITICO in a statement.