Months after he was first considered for the role, the Senate has approved U.S. Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-TX) to lead the nation’s spy agencies as the director of national intelligence, Reuters reports.
The vote fell on party lines, with Democrats objecting that his confirmation would allow Ratcliffe to politicize the position in furthering President Donald Trump’s interests. In a final tally of 49–44, all Republicans cast a “yes” vote and all Democrats voted “no,” according to Reuters.
Trump initially selected Ratcliffe for the post in July, but withdrew his name from consideration under bipartisan criticism, as The Hill noted. Although the GOP came around to supporting him this week, Democrats maintained their original fervor over the nomination.
A critical confirmation
Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), who serves on the Senate Intelligence Committee, pointed to Ratcliffe’s previous defense of the president as evidence that he would likely be unable to remain apolitical.
“There is every reason to believe that his public statements would be designed for one purpose, and one purpose only — to please Donald Trump,” Wyden said, according to Reuters.
While some Republicans still have concerns about Ratcliff’s qualifications, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) emphasized the importance of having a permanent director at the helm.
“In a time when the threats to our nation are many and varied, it is critical to have a Senate-confirmed DNI,” the acting intelligence committee chairman explained, according to a report from The New York Times.
Setting a high bar
Richard Grenell has most recently held the job on an interim basis, and he has also come under fire from Democrats who believe he is too loyal to the president. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) also raised concerns earlier this year over allegations that Grenell did not notify the Justice Department at the time of his appointment about services he provided on behalf of foreign interests, as CBS News reported.
In comments on Thursday, Schumer voiced displeasure over Trump’s latest choice, asserting that Ratcliffe does not possess the qualifications necessary for the job.
“It requires someone with unimpeachable integrity, deep experience, and the independence and backbone to speak truth to power,” he said, according to The Hill. “That’s what DNIs, including the previous one, Dan Coats, did. Unfortunately, Mr. Ratcliffe doesn’t even come close to meeting that high bar.”
Responding to pointed questions from senators, however, Ratcliffe maintained that the intelligence information he provides “will not be subject to outside influence,” Reuters noted.
Whether he lives up to that promise or not, previous comments by Democratic lawmakers all but guarantee Ratcliffe will continue to face harsh rebukes from high-profile critics of the Trump administration.