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Cabinet shakeups give Democrats the opportunity to block Trump picks

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Republicans agree that failed confirmation votes undoubtedly are a real possibility.

“I’d be surprised whenever they didn’t” block both the nominees, said Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.). “Sen. Schumer is actually comparatively clear that he’s attempting to slow us down. And again, it might not be [over] the nominee themselves. It’s purely a way to prevent us from doing our work here.”

Until the Tillerson ouster, the calendar for 2018 appeared free of the sort of divisive legislative fights over medical care and taxes that defined Republicans’ newbie in full domination over the federal government.

The realization of an omnibus spending bill as well as a punt on the immigration status of Dreamers, the thinking went, would go away the White House unengaged to focus its energies within the midterms in order to avoid any debilitating intraparty brawls.

Instead, the White House is prepared for any full-on push to keep the GOP in line behind two nominees well known for defending torture techniques – along with the prospect more confirmation fights if Trump shuffles other members of his Cabinet.

“I think we assume a tricky fight on almost all of our nominations. I do believe the fact that obstruction continues to be historic. Therefore we wouldn’t expect anything different at this moment,” said White House legislative affairs director Marc Short. “I’m confident that they’re both eminently qualified and now have amazing stories to determine, and i believe they’ll produce a great number of confidence in the hearing process.”

White House officials say they’re positive that they’ll emerge victorious, to some extent and there is 10 Democratic senators up for reelection in states that Trump won in 2016, that can face pressure not to ever obstruct.

“I think Democrats make a show out from both,” one White House official said, but predicted eventual confirmation, voicing particular confidence about Pompeo.

“Democrats are well aware that they might purchase a a reduced amount of agreeable appointee inside Trump administration, someone who doesn’t need the credentials he does,” anyone said. “I think they will make a scene today, however they are intending to take him.”

The White Property is also hopeful which the looming prospect of talks with North Korea could put further pressure on Democrats to approve the nominees.

Haspel and Pompeo each face a different couple of challenges. Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) voted in support of Pompeo as CIA director last year, but they can flip. With Paul, associated with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, already opposed, losing another Republican about the panel may just be catastrophic, though Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) could still bring Pompeo for the floor, whatever his committee vote.

Retiring Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), who serves within the Foreign Relations panel, continues to be privately cited by Democrats like a potential flip vote for Pompeo and Haspel. A vocal Trump critic, he was quoted saying he’s “looking into” Haspel’s record and wants to hear willingness from Pompeo to kick with Trump on Russia.

“We need those that will withstand obama, frankly, on some issues. I wish to ensure he’s willing to make it happen,” Flake said within the interview.

Haspel, whose current role did not require confirmation, isn’t highly likely to square a no vote originating from a committee stacked with defense hawks. But she might face difficult questions from Democrats about her time overseeing a CIA prison in Thailand where suspects were interrogated with techniques that many consider to constitute torture.

“These are going to be hard-hitting hearings. So certainly, Democrats are quite, very anxious to obtain some answers,” said Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), who serves within the Intelligence Committee and opposes both Pompeo and Haspel.

Yet Trump’s demonstrated preference for unorthodox figures could leave some Democrats inclined to take the pair, who few would label unqualified whether or not they disagree along with them on policy.

Republicans have got the luxury of a cadre of Democratic senators facing reelection in 2018 in states Trump easily won: Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Claire McCaskill of Missouri. All 4 dicated to confirm Pompeo in the CIA.

The most conservative Democrat, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, is not really an automated “yes” on either, despite his closeness to Trump.

“Sen. Manchin anticipates legitimate both nominees and evaluating their records of service,” a spokesman said.

Democrats show increased unity since early months of your Trump administration. They held together to bar repeal of your Affordable Care Act if they were joined by three Republicans. And in addition they voted unanimously against Trump’s signature tax cut bill.

“It’s possible. At 51-49, what is the possibility that there will likely be some Republican opposition? I think it’s fairly high,” said Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.). “I think there’ll be drama.”

Short of blocking the picks altogether, Democrats could still cause serious headaches for that White House in the process.

“The biggest danger for any White Home is that these two folks are from within the administration and tend to be probably going to be instructed to focus on what’s happened from the administration in their confirmation hearings,” said Matthew Miller, who helped shepherd former Attorney General Eric Holder through his confirmation hearings and joined him at DOJ being a spokesman.

He pointed for example to the Washington Post report from June 2017 that Trump complained to Pompeo and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats at the outset of his presidency about then-FBI Director James Comey’s handling with the Russia probe.

If Pompeo refuses to address that conversation, Democrats would use that as justification for voting against him, Miller said, since such questions check out how Pompeo reacted to presidential pressure while leading the CIA.

“If you invoke executive privilege at the oversight hearing, nothing is the senators is able to do back,” Miller said. “In a confirmation hearing, you’ll be able to lose votes about that.”

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