WASHINGTON — In a dramatic turnaround that opened a clear path to confirmation for President Trump’s pick for secretary of state, Sen. Rand Paul last night supported Mike Pompeo’s bid.

Paul’s reversal secured not only a favorable vote out of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last night — preventing Pompeo from becoming the first secretary of state nominee not to receive one. It also, along with the support of a handful of Democrats, all but ensured his confirmation later this week on a simple majority vote.

Paul had objected to Pompeo’s nomination based on the outgoing CIA director’s support for the Iraq war and for certain U.S. surveillance practices. Trump and Republican lawmakers furiously lobbied the Kentucky Republican in an effort to gain his support over the past week, but as late as yesterday afternoon Paul’s office said he remained unmoved.

That changed just minutes before the committee met to vote last night. Paul said that Trump, who, like Paul, opposed the Iraq War, assured him that neither Pompeo or anyone else would change his view that regime change doesn’t work.

“Actually I want Trump to be Trump,” Paul said last night.

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Paul said that Pompeo also assured him that “he’s learned the lesson” in Iraq.

“Now only time will tell if these assurances are true or not,” Paul said. “But I do take him at his word.”

Three Democrats — Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Joe Donnelly of Indiana — also announced their support of Pompeo, giving him more than the 50 votes needed for confirmation, but still leaving open the possibility that he will have the lowest confirmation margin of any secretary of state in history. Currently his predecessor Rex Tillerson holds that distinction with a vote last year of 56-43.

Pompeo’s vote is also an indicator of the rocky road nearly any Trump nominee will have to confirmation — a consideration Trump should keep in mind when pondering other administration personnel changes, said GOP strategist Matt Mackowiak.

“Pompeo is unquestionably qualified, so the fact that his confirmation was ever in doubt is a reminder how narrow the margin is in the Senate,” Mackowiak said. “Unless the margin improves with the midterms, the Trump administration needs to be very careful about creating cabinet openings.”


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