Apr 20, 2018, 5:25 PM ET

Coons announces opposition to Pompeo, cuts off path to favorable committee vote


Sen. Chris Coons, a Delaware Democrat, announced Friday that he will not vote to support the nomination of Mike Pompeo to be secretary of state, officially closing the door on Pompeo’s chances of being favorably recommended out of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee ahead of a full Senate floor vote.

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Coons, the last Democrat on the panel to announce his position, said in a statement that he was encouraged by Pompeo's commitment to the diplomatic corps that he laid out in his confirmation hearing but concluded that the current CIA director and former congressman would embolden rather than temper President Donald Trump's most bellicose instincts.

“I do not make this decision lightly or without reservations," Coons said in a statement. "I remain concerned that Director Pompeo will not challenge the President in critical moments. On vital decisions facing our country, Director Pompeo seems less concerned with rule of law and partnership with our allies and more inclined to emphasize unilateral action and the use of force."

Coons also said he was concerned with some of Pompeo's past statements made over his political career on "a range of issues."

Republicans on the 21-person committee hold a slim one-seat majority over Democrats. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., also opposes Pompeo's nomination to be the nation’s top diplomat. That meant Pompeo needed the support of at least one Democrat on the committee to get the simple majority needed for a favorable recommendation.

But with Coons’ announcement, all ten Democrats on the committee have now announced that they would not support Pompeo.

Coons’ position is not a surprise. He had said as late as Thursday afternoon that he was “leaning against” Pompeo's nomination and he also voted against him to serve as CIA director last year.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will vote on Pompeo’s nomination Monday.

With the option of a favorable recommendation off the table, they can still report the nomination to the Senate floor with an unfavorable recommendation or simply take no action. And the full Senate will still vote on his confirmation, which is likely to succeed.

But the fact that Pompeo’s confirmation will not be referred favorably to the full Senate is an almost unprecedented rebuke from the committee of jurisdiction. The last time any cabinet-level nominee who was reported unfavorably by a committee but went on to be confirmed by the full Senate was 73 years ago when Henry Wallace was confirmed to be the secretary of commerce on March 1, 1945.

Past secretaries of state, including Condoleezza Rice, John Kerry, and Hillary Clinton have breezed through their respective confirmations, receiving strong tallies from both sides of the aisle.

While Pompeo will not receive the support of any of the ten Senate Foreign Committee Democrats, at least one member of the caucus has announced she will vote for him: Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., who is facing a tough re-election fight in a state that voted heavily for President Donald Trump in 2016.

If no other Republican besides Paul opposes Pompeo in the Senate floor vote, Heitkamp’s support means he will have just enough votes to be confirmed, including Vice President Mike Pence’s tie-breaking vote.

ABC's Mariam Khan contributed to this report.

News - Coons announces opposition to Pompeo, cuts off path to favorable committee vote

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  • Joan West

    It is not necessary for Mr. Pompeo to be qualified in the terms of yesterday for Director considering what we are witnessing from career people at this point. I have seen him make a difference in a very serious matter. He conducted himself with the intelligence and in a demeanor befitting the position he has been nominated to hold. We are looking at politics and in this matter especially, we have had ENOUGH politics in this area for the last 15 years, we need someone who has displayed the courage to go to an unfriendly country, meet with good knowledge of what the situation is and how it could easily change to either peaceful or war, and has negotiated the steps to peace. For the Republicans and the Democrats you are again taking the Congress of the United States to a most sad low by not looking at a qualified representative to represent the United States of America.

  • Kay

    Our wonder politicians at work again. They all need to go.

  • JanetF

    Wow! Why anyone compares Pompeo with Hillary is BEYOND. What was found by the New York Police Dept. on Anthony Weiner's laptop marked "Life Insurance"? What made them threaten to hold a press conference if the then DOJ didn't start arresting and holding PPL accountable for their criminal acts.

    Quote: NYPD sources said these new emails include evidence linking Clinton herself and associates to:

    • Money laundering

    • Child exploitation

    • Sex crimes with minors (children)

    • Perjury

    • Pay to play through Clinton Foundation

    • Obstruction of justice

    • Other felony crimes

    NYPD detectives and a [sic] NYPD Chief, the department’s highest rank under Commissioner, said openly that if the FBI and Justice Department fail to garner timely indictments against Clinton and co- conspirators, NYPD will go public with the damaging emails now in the hands of FBI Director James Comey and many FBI field offices.

    “What’s in the emails is staggering and as a father, it turned my stomach,” the NYPD Chief said. “There is not going to be any Houdini-like escape from what we found. We have copies of everything. We will ship them to Wikileaks or I will personally hold my own press conference if it comes to that.”

    The truth is BEYOND what ANY descent person would want to know or admit. This is EVIL VS. Good. Wake up!

  • Hank R

    Yes, Pompeo is not a diplomat in the traditional sense. How have traditional diplomats done with the North Korea problems? Who knows, maybe a non-traditional individual will do better.

  • Lee-Anne Griffin

    So how come he wasn't a sycophant when they approved him for CIA director? Sigh. OK, I am no fan of Trump but a lot of this is just political nonsense trying to make things harder for Trump. At some point, a lot of middle of the road people really get tired of this silliness. Kind of like the whole reason Trump won in the first place. It wasn't that people voted for him, it was that a lot of people that probably would have voted Dem stayed home because they are sick of the games. I can see if they guy was turned down for previous jobs but to be confirmed as the CIA director (which is a pretty darn important job) and then to have the same people slam him later on is too obviously just being confrontational. And I don't care if you or don't like Trump, be intellectually honest about the whole thing. The job of SoS is not to temper a President. It is to carry out the President's agenda. So to even say that is just silly.

  • Hank R

    "Coons announces opposition to Pompeo, cuts off path to favorable committee vote"

    Probably should have added "Sen." as the first word in the title.

  • Oak Kay

    WOW this just shows how broken the GOP is when in a year and a half the only 2 major things they have accomplished are the confirmation of a Supreme pick Old Mitch stole from President Obama and their Richmans Tax Kickback to their donors!
    Frankly with most of the GOP House now being tied down with reElection troubles and with Senate Republicans gridlocked with McCain sidelined and Crazy Rand Paul now the swing vote I think nothing big will be coming out of the House and Senate this year!!!

  • center_line

    The only things that will be put in Trumps world from now forward will have to understand 'up front' that they MUST,'mandatory', bow to Trump.Or don't apply.
    Yes,that is what the Trumpsters voted for.Hillary was right.They are definately deplorables.And could care less for America.

  • Ctrygrl

    This is not education or HUD, this is the freaking Secretary of State the first cabinet post and the first cabinet member in line to the presidency and he will be confirmed on a VP tie breaker??????

  • SimpleTruthSeeker

    Coons is spot on.

  • Your Worst Nightmare

    In other words, we don't need another sycophant who will always agree with Trump and Bolton to take military action. Especially someone with ZERO diplomatic experience but Donnie makes a habit of nominating incompetents, doesn't he? Tillerson wasn't perfect but he stood up to Trump which is probably why he was fired.

  • Sal Monela

    Good news! Probably won't keep him from being SOS, but a good move regardless. I wouldn't vote for him because of that stunt Trump pulled having him meet with NK.

  • Prophet With Honor

    Don't confirm him and he stays at CIA which keeps the Torture Queen out of that top job.

  • Teresa Ganim

    Senator Graham said he would not support Pompeo. Also Flake may also not vote for Pompeo he will have to fight for his confirmation.

  • John Springer

    I think he deserves confirmation, certainly no fatal flaws. Difference of opinions should not always derail a nominee.