Senators face choice on CIA director nominee ahead of key votes

CNN/ Newswire | 5/14/2018, 11:12 a.m.
Republican leaders believe that Gina Haspel will be confirmed to be the next director of the CIA, though a few ...
The fate of Gina Haspel's nomination to be the first female director of the CIA may come down to her performance in a situation until this morning she's never before encountered: a Senate confirmation hearing.

By Lauren Fox, Ashley Killough, Ted Barrett and Kristin Wilson, CNN

(CNN) -- Republican leaders believe that Gina Haspel will be confirmed to be the next director of the CIA, though a few notable lawmakers -- red state Democrats and Republican Sens. Jeff Flake and Lisa Murkowski -- are still undecided.

Last week, Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain announced his opposition to Haspel, a factor that is weighing on Flake and others.

But over the weekend, Haspel's supporters got a large boost once Indiana Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly said he would support her nomination -- joining West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin as the second Democrat to do so. While Donnelly's decision does not assure Haspel's confirmation, it does help solidify the numbers needed to get her through the chamber. Expect more senators to make their decisions public this week.

Flake said he has "always shared McCain's views on the issue" of torture and added that he believes McCain's statement will "affect everyone."

Some lawmakers are urging the Department of Justice to release a document from John Durham, the federal prosecutor who was tapped to investigate the destruction of the tapes in 2008 and closed the case in 2010 without bringing any charges. The report is a look at how tapes of the enhanced interrogation program were destroyed, but right now it is only available to members of the Senate Intelligence Committee. Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the committee, has called on the Justice Department to release the document for all senators to review.

The vote on Haspel in the Senate Intelligence Committee could come this week with a full Senate vote potentially before the end of the month.

'Discharge petition' for immigration solution

Immigration will be back in the spotlight as a group of House Republicans seeks to buck GOP leadership by using a procedural maneuver to force a vote on four competing immigration bills with a procedural maneuver known as a discharge petition.

With the likely help of all Democrats, the group thinks they can get enough Republicans on board to get the number of signatures needed -- a majority of the House -- to trigger floor votes.

Republicans had 18 signatures by the end of the week and need at least seven more to feel confident that they have the numbers. House Speaker Paul Ryan dismissed the effort Thursday, saying none of the four immigration bills will get the President's signature.

"I would like to have an immigration vote before the midterms, but I want to have a vote on something that can make it into law," he said. "I don't want to have, you know, show ponies."

But if Republicans cross the threshold of signatures, it would prompt a heated immigration debate on the House floor that was previously unexpected this year.

Cabinet secretaries on the Hill

Scott Pruitt, the embattled administrator to the Environmental Protection Agency, will return to Capitol Hill this week to testify before a Senate Appropriations Committee about the fiscal year 2019 budget for his agency.