Government & Politics

McCaskill explains vote, despite ‘reservations,’ for Pompeo for secretary of state

U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill held a town hall meeting in Kansas City on March 28.
U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill held a town hall meeting in Kansas City on March 28.

U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill said she overcame "grave reservations" about Mike Pompeo's rhetoric when he was a congressman to vote in favor of his nomination as secretary of state on Thursday.

McCaskill, of Missouri, joined five other Democrats and one independent to vote for Pompeo, a former Kansas businessman who was confirmed 57-42.

“While I have grave reservations about Mr. Pompeo’s rhetoric when he was a Congressman, I supported his nomination based on his work leading and defending the intelligence community and the strong recommendation of (Defense) Secretary (Jim) Mattis," McCaskill said in a statement after the vote.

"Secretary Mattis has assured me that Mr. Pompeo has been willing to speak truth to power in critical situations involving the President," McCaskill said. "It was that information that ultimately persuaded me. It is also clear that he is committed to supporting our diplomatic corps, rather than tearing it apart.”

Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley, a Republican who hopes to challenge McCaskill for her Senate seat in November, had launched a web ad this week targeting McCaskill over her indecision on the Pompeo nomination. As recently as Wednesday, McCaskill told reporters she didn't know how she would vote. She voted for Pompeo as CIA director but had said the job of the nation's top diplomat required a different skill set.

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“It is deeply troubling how focused Senator McCaskill is on doing what’s politically convenient, instead of doing what’s right," said Kelli Ford, spokesperson for the Hawley for Senate campaign, before the vote. "She needs to get serious and stop using our national security as a bargaining chip."

McCaskill is running for her third term in an increasingly red state. Trump won Missouri by nearly 19 percentage points in 2016.

Her office said she has voted to confirm 64 percent of Trump’s executive nominees.

On Thursday, McCaskill could be seen on the Senate floor chatting with Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Missouri, shortly before giving a thumbs-up to indicate a yes vote for Pompeo.

Former CIA director Mike Pompeo is the secretary of state. Pompeo is a former U.S. Representative for Kansas and a co-founder of Thayer Aerospace in Wichita.

Some Democrats and American Muslims have taken issue with Pompeo's past comments about Islam, including remarks he made after the Boston Marathon bombing, when Pompeo said the silence of American Muslim leaders made them “potentially complicit in these acts and more importantly still, in those that may well follow.”

After Thursday's vote, some liberal groups expressed disappointment in Democrats like McCaskill who crossed party lines to support Pompeo.

Elizabeth Beavers, the Indivisible Project’s foreign policy manager, said Democrats who voted for Pompeo ignored the wishes of their constituents.

"No Democrat should help Trump build his war cabinet. That’s exactly what these senators did," Beavers said.