The US Senate has confirmed President Donald Trump’s nominee, Texas Congressman John Ratcliffe as the next Director of National Intelligence (DNI).
Senators on Thursday voted 49-44 on Ratcliffe’s nomination, largely along party lines, reports Xinhua news agency.
Republicans hold 53 seats in the Senate.
Ahead of Thursday’s vote, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell praised Ratcliffe while Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer vowed to oppose his nomination.
“Today, we’ll confirm the next director of national intelligence. John Ratcliffe will lead the Intelligence Community in countering threats from great powers, rogue nations, and terrorists – and ensuring that work is untainted by political bias,” McConnell said.
In comparison, Schumer said that Ratcliffe has “not demonstrated the qualities for the independence that we should expect”.
“It requires someone with unimpeachable integrity, deep experience and the independence and backbone to speak truth to power. That’s what DNIs, including the previous one, Dan Coats, did. Unfortunately, Ratcliffe doesn’t even come close to meeting that high bar,” Schumer added.
A report by The Hill news outlet said Ratcliffe’s confirmation was the most political vote that has occurred for the DNI position, which has traditionally been viewed as an apolitical position.
Dan Coats, who left the post in August 2019 after a tenure in which he conflicted with the White House on a number of national security issues, was confirmed 85-12 for the post in 2017.
James Clapper, his Senate-confirmed predecessor, was confirmed by a voice vote.
Ratcliffe, 54, was nominated again by Trump in February to be the nation’s spy chief, several months after the Texas Republican’s first nomination was withdrawn amid bipartisan concerns about his qualification.
Trump picked Ratcliffe as new chief of national intelligence on July 28, 2019, four days after Robert Mueller testified before the House Judiciary Committee, when the Republican fiercely questioned the former special counsel over his two-year investigation into the alleged Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, and Trump’s possible obstruction of justice.
First elected to the US Congress, Ratcliffe sits on the House judiciary and intelligence committees.
As a frequent Trump’s defender, he has been viewed as one of the most conservative members of Congress based on his voting record. He was also a member of Trump’s impeachment defence team.
The DNI position has been filled in an acting capacity since Coats stepped down in August 2019.
The DNI is a cabinet-level official in the US government that serves as the head of the 17-member US Intelligence Community, a group of separate intelligence agencies and subordinate organizations engaging in intelligence activities that support American foreign policy and national security.
The post was created in the wake of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001.