The U.S. Senate on Thursday confirmed Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-TX) as the next Director of National Intelligence under President Donald Trump after contentious debate over his qualifications and perceived partisanship.
The 49-44 confirmation vote was along party lines, but Democrats did allow the nomination process to skip some hurdles that could have delayed it until June.
Acting DNI chief Richard Grenell is disliked even more than Ratcliffe by Democrats, motivating them not to stand in the way of Ratcliffe’s nomination.
Ratcliffe’s predecessor, Dan Coats, had been confirmed 85-12 vote, Axios noted. Coats stepped down from the position in August.
Ratcliffe is new spy chief
The DNI chief position oversees all 17 U.S. intelligence agencies and will have broad discretion about releasing documents related to investigations into Joe Biden, Trump’s current presidential rival.
Senators had questioned Ratcliffe’s ability to remain neutral through such investigations because of his previous loyalty and support of Trump during impeachment.
Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY) said that Ratcliffe had “not demonstrated the qualities for the independence that we should expect,” The Hill reported.
Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden (D), who is on the Intelligence Committee, said that Ratcliffe has made “extremely disturbing statements that make it clear that he has and will misrepresent and politicize intelligence.”
Republicans welcome Ratcliffe
“The DNI’s role is crucial to our national security, and I look forward to working with Director Ratcliffe as he oversees the efforts of our nation’s 17 intelligence agencies,” acting Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Marco Rubio (R-FL) said in a statement Thursday.
Ratcliffe pointed to his experience as an “apolitical” prosecutor and his work in the Justice Department and the House since 2005, which dealt mostly with National Security issues, as experience for the role.
He has been awaiting confirmation since late February, when Trump nominated him to the position.
I’m a little sorry to see Richard Grenell go, since he has not been afraid to make changes and shake up the status quo. There’s a reason Democrats were almost eager to see Ratcliffe confirmed, even though they stopped short of voting for him themselves.