May 19, 2020 / 2:48 PM / 15 days ago

Senate panel backs Trump nominee Ratcliffe to be top U.S. spy

FILE PHOTO: U.S. Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-TX) testifies before a Senate Intelligence Committee nomination hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., May 5, 2020. Andrew Harnik/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee voted along party lines on Tuesday to back President Donald Trump’s nomination of Republican Representative John Ratcliffe to be director of national intelligence.

The committee said the vote was 8-7, along partly lines, with Trump’s fellow Republicans backing the nominee and committee Democrats opposed.

His confirmation vote in the full Senate is expected to be close. Trump’s fellow Republicans hold a 53-to-47-seat majority and rarely break from the president, but Ratcliffe has not won over Democrats.

No floor vote has been scheduled. It could take place as soon as this week, depending on how soon Republican leaders determine whether they have the 51 votes needed for confirmation.

Trump first said he would nominate Ratcliffe, a member of the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee, to be director of national intelligence last year. The nomination did not go forward amid questions about his lack of experience and partisan reputation, but the Republican president nominated him again this year.

Senator Marco Rubio, acting chairman of the Intelligence Committee, said he looked forward to voting for Ratcliffe’s confirmation.

Separately, Rubio told reporters on Tuesday that he had received a waiver that allowed him to remain chairman of the Senate’s Small Business Committee while temporarily leading the intelligence panel.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced on Monday that Rubio would serve as acting intelligence chairman after his fellow Republican, Senator Richard Burr, said he would step aside during a federal investigation of his stock trades.

Reporting by Mark Hosenball, additional reporting by Patricia Zengerle; writing by Patricia Zengerle; editing by Howard Goller and Dan Grebler

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