“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 to be our next Secretary of State,” Paul tweeted.
At the White House, Trump said, “I heard Rand Paul went yes…he’s a good man. I said he’d never let us down. He’s a good man.”
Earlier in the day, two vulnerable Senate Democrats facing tough re-election bids — Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Joe Donnelly of Indiana — said they planned to vote for Pompeo should the nomination reach the Senate floor. Along with the previously announced backing of Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., also up for re-election this year, their support would make Pompeo’s confirmation almost certain.
Hours before the committee vote Monday, President Donald Trump slammed Democrats for that position. “Hard to believe Obstructionists May vote against Mike Pompeo for Secretary of State …” he tweeted.
The president did not mention Paul, and White House legislative affairs director Marc Short told reporters Monday morning that the administration believed there was “a good chance” that the Kentucky senator would change his position and vote for Pompeo later in the day.
A spokesperson for Paul told NBC News that there were “no changes at this time” to the senator’s plans to vote against the nomination.
Most Republican senators are rallying behind Pompeo and urging Democrats to confirm him, especially as the Senate prepares to consider two other critical Trump nominations: Gina Haspel’s already-troubled bid to be the next CIA director, and Ronny Jackson’s to head the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Amid tough committee questioning of Pompeo last week, the White House looked to burnish his credentials by highlighting the revelation that he had met in secret with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in advance of a potential summit between him and Trump.
“I realize my Democratic friends in many cases feel like that in supporting Pompeo, it’s a proxy for support of the Trump administration policies, which many of them abhor. I understand that,” Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee said last week on the Senate floor.
The Trump factor hasn’t been the only sticking point for Democrats, who have argued that Pompeo’s previous statements regarding Muslims and LGBT rights and his hawkish views should disqualify him from serving in a key diplomatic role.
“I believe our nation’s top diplomat must be forthright, and, more critically, his past sentiments do not reflect our nation’s values, and are not acceptable for our nation’s top diplomat. The American people deserve better,” Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., ranking member on Foreign Relations, said in remarks last week announcing his opposition to Pompeo. He also expressed frustration that Pompeo had not previously mentioned his visit to North Korea in conversations with him.