The Senate Foreign Relations Committee today approved the nomination of anti-LGBT politician Mike Pompeo as secretary of State, moving his nomination on to the full Senate for a confirmation vote. If approved he'd be America's top diplomat and fourth in line to the presidency.
The 11-9 party-line vote came after Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky changed his mind and decided to support Pompeo, The New York Times reports. Paul, who often opposes intervention in foreign conflicts, had expressed reservations about Pompeo, but today he said he had received assurances that Pompeo agrees with Donald Trump’s stance on such matters.
“After calling continuously for weeks for Director Pompeo to support President Trump’s belief that the Iraq war was a mistake, and that it is time to leave Afghanistan, today I received confirmation that Director Pompeo agrees with President Trump,” Paul wrote on Twitter. “President Trump believes that Iraq was a mistake, that regime change has destabilized the region and that we must end our involvement with Afghanistan. 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.”
Another Republican member of the committee, Jeff Flake of Arizona, who has often been critical of Trump’s actions, had earlier decided to support Pompeo. A Republican who had supported him all along, Johnny Isakson of Georgia, was at a funeral and unable to attend the committee meeting this evening, and Senate rules do not allow an absent member to cast a deciding vote, CNN reports. With approval a foregone conclusion, Democrat Chris Coons of Delaware voted “present” to move the nomination along. He had already publicly opposed Pompeo’s appointment.
Pompeo, who has been director of the CIA under Trump, has a long anti-LGBT and antichoice record as a congressman from Kansas and a state legislator before that. He has opposed marriage equality and repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” and sponsored “license to discriminate” legislation. He also has made anti-Muslim statements and has been an ally of the Family Research Council, a virulently anti-LGBT organization, having frequently appeared on the group’s radio show. Two Democratic members of the Foreigh Relations Committee, Jeanne Shaheen and Cory Booker, grilled him on those views during a hearing this month. Opposition to him has also been rooted in his aggressive approach to foreign policy.
LGBT rights groups have strongly opposed Pompeo’s appointment to head the State Department, where he would replace Rex Tillerson, recently fired by Trump. Upon news of the committee’s vote today, GLAAD president and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis released this statement: “The fact that the Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved someone with ties to an anti-LGBTQ hate group that supported Uganda’s efforts to punish and execute LGBTQ people to serve as our nation’s top diplomat is sickening. Together we must fight to prevent Mike Pompeo confirmation and ensure that anti-LGBTQ hate and extremism do not become one of our nation’s major exports.”
But with some centrist Democratic senators — Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, Joe Donnelly of Indiana, and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota — pledging their support for Pompeo, he is likely to be confirmed. Debate on his nomination is expected to close Wednesday, with a vote before the Senate recesses Friday, the Times reports.