WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate intelligence committee has approved the nomination of Texas GOP Rep. John Ratcliffe to be Director of National Intelligence, sending the nomination to the Senate floor for confirmation.
Ratcliffe’s nomination was approved 8-7 in a closed committee hearing, with senators voting along party lines, according to a committee aide. The aide was granted anonymity to discuss the closed proceedings ahead of an official announcement.
Republicans have praised Ratcliffe, who has been ardent defender of President Donald Trump, while Democrats have been skeptical that he would serve with the independence they say is crucial for the job. Ratcliffe sought to shed his reputation as a Trump loyalist at his confirmation hearing earlier this month, insisting he would lead the nation’s intelligence agencies without partisan influence.
Ratcliffe would replace Dan Coats, a former GOP senator who was popular in Congress but who clashed with Trump in his two years in the job. Richard Grenell, who is close to Trump, is now the acting director.
Trump, who has always viewed the intelligence committee with skepticism, has nominated Ratcliffe twice. Ratcliffe was first picked for the post last summer, shortly after Coats’ resignation, but then withdrew after some Senate Republicans questioned his experience.
GOP senators warmed to Ratcliffe after Trump unexpectedly nominated him again in February. The months in between were a tumultuous time in the intelligence community, as Trump ousted and fired multiple officials, and senators were eager for a permanent replacement for Coats.
The hearing was the first for the panel’s new chairman, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell tapped Rubio to temporarily lead the committee after Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., stepped aside amid an FBI inquiry of his recent stock sales.