(Bloomberg) -- CIA Director Mike Pompeo is nearing the votes he needs for confirmation as secretary of state after Democratic Senator Heidi Heitkamp said Thursday she’ll cross party lines to back him.
The statement by Heitkamp of North Dakota breaks what had been a Democratic wall of opposition that threatened his confirmation, given that Pompeo also is opposed by Kentucky Republican Rand Paul.
“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,” Heitkamp said. "We need to seek a diplomatic solution in North Korea and we need to make sure that any discussions support the goals of the U.S.”
Republican Jeff Flake of Arizona earlier told reporters Thursday he hasn’t yet decided to support Pompeo after talking to him late Wednesday. The GOP controls the Senate 51-49, and Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona has been absent while undergoing cancer treatment.
Senator Chris Coons of Delaware, a Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, told reporters he’s leaning against the nominee, in part over his concern about potential interference with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.
Heitkamp is one of 10 Democratic senators facing re-election this year in states President Donald Trump won in 2016. Her announcement may put pressure on others to also back Pompeo.
Republican senators hope to confirm Pompeo as soon as possible, citing his role in meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in preparation for upcoming talks with Trump.
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