Senate Confirms New Intelligence Chief, Elections Commissioner

WASHINGTON – Here’s how area senators voted during the legislative week ending May 22. The House was in recess.


Confirming Ratcliffe as Intelligence Chief:

On a party-line vote of 49 for and 44 against, the Senate on May 21 confirmed Rep. John L. Ratcliffe, R-Texas, as the nation’s top intelligence official. He becomes the sixth director of national intelligence since the office was created after 9/11 to improve coordination among the 17 U.S. civilian and military intelligence agencies.

Ratcliffe, 54, ardently defended President Trump during House impeachment hearings last year, prompting Democratic senators to question whether ­­­he would independently oversee the American spy apparatus or, instead, shape intelligence to please the White House. But Republicans said his membership on the House Select Committee on Intelligence and background as a federal prosecutor qualify him to become DNI, and they pointed to his pledge of independence during Senate confirmation hearings.

During brief debate before the confirmation vote, no GOP supporter cited Ratcliffe’s qualifications for the position.

Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, said: “With this new position comes great responsibility. (Ratcliffe) will have tremendous power to do good and to be transparent. I would like to remind (him that) transparency brings accountability, and the public’s business ought to be public. In conclusion, please, Congressman Ratcliffe and, please, the greater intelligence community, remember you were created by statute, but Congress was created by the Constitution.”

Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said: “With Donald Trump as president and William Barr as attorney general, the leadership of the intelligence community is one of democracy’s last lines of defense. That is why the American people need a (DNI) who understands how the law protects their rights. … Nothing that John Ratcliffe has said during his confirmation process or throughout his career provides a glimmer of hope that he is a person who would speak truth to power and stand up for the rights of Americans.”

A yes vote was to confirm the nominee.


Voting yes: Richard Shelby, R 

Voting no:  Doug Jones, D 

Confirming Trainor as Election Commissioner:

On a party-line vote of 49 for and 43 against, the Senate on May 19 confirmed James E. Trainor III of Austin, Texas, for a seat on the Federal Election Commission, a post-Watergate panel charged with enforcing campaign-finance laws in federal contests. The FEC discloses candidates’ campaign-finance data to the public, enforces rules for campaign contributions and spending and supervises the public funding of presidential elections. An attorney specializing in election law, Trainor advised President Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign. He becomes the fourth member of the six-member FEC, giving it a quorum for conducting business for the first time since late August. There was no Senate floor debate on Trainor’s nomination.

A yes vote was to confirm the nominee.


Voting yes: Shelby 

Voting no: Jones 


The House will vote in the week of May 25 on extending the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, while the Senate will be in recess.