The Senate is headed toward one of the most highly-charged confirmation battles yet over who will replace axed FBI Director James Comey, Politico reports. Democrats are demanding the confirmation of Comey’s successor be put on pause until a special prosecutor is appointed to oversee the federal probe into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian officials. Republicans are so far making no such conditions, and are urging President Trump to chose someone quickly to lead the nation’s chief law enforcement bureau. Senate Democrats wield little leverage to block Comey’s replacement. Yet past FBI directors have earned essentially unanimous support from the Senate, steering the confirmation fight into uncharted waters if it turns into full-fledged partisan combat.
New York Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, who has aggressively opposed Trump’s agenda, tweeted, “The Senate shouldn’t consider a new FBI director until an independent special prosecutor is appointed to probe the Trump campaign & Russia.” Though he was confirmed with 94 votes just last month, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein this week got scathing rebukes from key Democratic supporters in the aftermath of the Comey ouster. Sen. Dick Durbin said he regretted voting to confirm Rosenstein after reviewing the memorandum he drafted that laid out the rationale for dismissing Comey. Confirmations for FBI directors rarely have been partisan. The Congressional Research Service says every leader of the bureau since the Nixon era was confirmed unanimously by the Senate until Comey, who was opposed by Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY). “The bar for that confirmation has been raised substantially,” said Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA). “If the replacement for Director Comey isn’t 100 percent unassailable … then I think they’re going to have credibility problems.”