Heitkamp Becomes First Democrat to Back Pompeo for Secretary of State

Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D., N.D.) / Getty Images

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Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.) announced Thursday she will vote to confirm Mike Pompeo as the next secretary of state.

Heitkamp is the first Democrat to give her support to Pompeo, the current CIA Director tapped by President Donald Trump last month to take over the State Department in place of Rex Tillerson.

"Pompeo demonstrated during this nomination process and during our meeting in March that he is committed to empowering the diplomats at the State Department so they can do their jobs in advancing American interests," she said in a statement. "At a time of peril around the world, we need to exhaust all diplomatic options before sending the brave men and women of the armed forces into dangerous situations that could escalate out of control."

She said if he was confirmed, she would "hold Mr. Pompeo accountable to make sure he advances our country's leadership in the world and supports our embassies."

Heitkamp's support is a key vote for Pompeo's confirmation, as Republicans hold a slim 51-49 majority and Republican Sen. Rand Paul (Ky.) has stated he will oppose him. Sen. John McCain (R., Ariz.) is not available to vote, and Sen. Jeff Flake (R., Ariz.) is undecided.

Last year, Pompeo had the support of 14 Democrats and one independent—Sen. Angus King (Maine)—in an eventual 66-32 vote to make him CIA Director. Several Democrats who voted for Pompeo last year are opposing him to lead State, however, including Sens. Tim Kaine (Va.) and Dianne Feinstein (Calif.).

Heitkamp was among three red-state Democrats name-dropped by Sen. Tom Cotton (R., Ark.) during a conference call with reporters Wednesday amid a White House push to confirm Pompeo.

"I cannot imagine that senators like Joe Manchin from West Virginia and Joe Donnelly from Indiana and Heidi Heitkamp from [North Dakota,] who are facing re-election in states that our president won by landslide elections, are going to oppose an obviously qualified nominee for whom they voted last year," Cotton said.

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