US Senate confirms Pompeo as secretary of state
Mike Pompeo secured support from 57 senators, with 42 voting no; he is expected to be sworn into office immediately
The Senate narrowly confirmed Mike Pompeo to be secretary of state on Thursday, clearing the path for him to take over as the top US diplomat just as President Donald Trump faces high-risk moments on Iran and North Korea.
Pompeo, the outgoing CIA director, secured support from 57 senators, with 42 voting no.
Every previous nominee for the job since at least the Carter administration received 85 or more yes votes in the Senate, except for the man he’s replacing, Rex Tillerson, who got 56.
Pompeo is expected to be sworn into office immediately and then to depart within hours of the vote for Europe on his first trip as secretary of state.
Pompeo had faced stiff resistance from Democrats worried about his reputation for hawkishness and past harsh statements about homosexuality and Islam.
Senator Ben Cardin, Democrat of Maryland, cited past statements Pompeo had made calling for military strikes on Iran as a solution to its disputed nuclear programme, declaring that American Muslim leaders are tacit supporters of terrorism, and calling for US withdrawal from international agreements on Iran’s nuclear deal and climate change.
“It’s incumbent on our next secretary of State to work with our allies in Europe, with all of our allies,” Cardin said. Pompeo “suggests we should pull out of the agreement if we can’t change it, even though Iran is in compliance with that agreement. That’s not diplomacy.”
Pompeo, a West Point graduate and former Army captain, was elected three times to the US House of Representatives from Kansas. He has led the CIA since Trump came to office in January 2017.
During his confirmation hearing, Pompeo said he would rebuild the ranks of the State Department, which has seen dramatic departures among senior staff during Tillerson’s tenure.
Trump fired Tillerson in March after months of disagreements.
Senator Pat Roberts, Republican of Kansas, urged his colleagues to vote in favour of Pompeo, who he said is “uniquely qualified.”
“We need Mike Pompeo and we need him now,” Roberts said. “He will be forthright, he will be independent and, yes, he will be diplomatic.”
Senator Bob Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, noted that a Nato ministerial meeting was scheduled for Friday in Brussels. “Us passing him out today will allow Pompeo to participate in this important mission,” Corker said.
“I didn’t know him well before this nomination,” he said. “Through the process of going through the confirmation hearing I think he’s going to be exemplary.”
Pompeo’s confirmation comes as multiple challenges for the US around the world come to a head next month.
President Trump is preparing to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in late May or early June in hopes of ending the North’s nuclear weapons programme.
Trump is also preparing to make a decision on whether to abandon the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement for a May 12 deadline.
Additional reporting by Reuters