Confirmation battle looms for Pompeo, Haspel

NEWYou can now listen to Fox News articles!

**Want FOX News Halftime Report in your inbox every day? Sign up here.**

On the roster: Confirmation battle looms for Pompeo, Haspel - I’ll Tell You What: So about Pennsylvania… - Lamb, Saccone locked in razor-thin fight - Kudlow accepts White House economic council job - The cold never bothered her anyway

WSJ: “Sen. Rand Paul (R., Ky.) said Wednesday he would oppose the nominations of Mike Pompeo to be secretary of state and Gina Haspel to lead the Central Intelligence Agency. The announcement by Mr. Paul, the first Republican to oppose either nominee, makes it likely that Democratic support will be needed for both Mr. Pompeo and Ms. Haspel to be confirmed in the Senate. President Donald Trump on Tuesday fired Rex Tillerson, the current secretary of state, and said he planned to replace Mr. Tillerson with Mr. Pompeo, who is currently the CIA director. Ms. Haspel, currently the agency’s deputy director, would be the first woman to lead the CIA, if she is confirmed. Mr. Paul told reporters Wednesday that he worried Mr. Pompeo hadn’t drawn the same lessons from the Iraq war as he had: that ‘regime change has unintended consequences’ that could be repeated in Iran. Mr. Pompeo has been one of the most vocal critics of the 2015 nuclear agreement that former President Barack Obama and five other nations struck with Iran.”

Just about everyone else seems on board - Fox News: “Senate Republican leaders are vowing to move quickly on confirmation hearings for President Trump’s nominations of Mike Pompeo as secretary of state and Gina Haspel to replace Pompeo as CIA director. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday praised both of Trump’s choices and has indicated the Republican-controlled chamber will begin hearings in the coming weeks. … The hearing for Pompeo will be held by the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. Committee chairman Bob Corker, R-Tenn., says the hearing will be in April. Sen. Richard Burr, chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, which will conduct the Haspel hearing, said Tuesday that he would consider her nomination ‘without delay.’ … But Pompeo and Haspel should get enough votes in their respective committee hearings because Republicans have the majority of members.”

Haspel to face questioning on interrogation program after 9/11 - WSJ: “The career Central Intelligence Agency officer picked by President Donald Trump to run the agency faced fresh questions Tuesday from lawmakers over her role in the CIA’s interrogation program following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Gina Haspel, 61 years old, is the agency’s current deputy director, and she would become the first woman to serve as CIA director if she wins approval from the Senate. … She was part of a team that oversaw the CIA’s detention and interrogation of suspected terrorists, using techniques that many experts and lawmakers since have described as torture, current and former officials have said. Her nomination already raised concerns from some lawmakers on Capitol Hill and among human-rights groups.”

“On the other hand, it will be equally forgotten that the vigor of government is essential to the security of liberty…” – Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 1

Time: “Professor Stephen Hawking, who died on Wednesday at the age of 76 at his home in Cambridge, England, was considered by many to be a once-in-a-generation genius. … He was most famous for his studies on black holes and relativity, which revolutionized the way we see and study the universe. His work with Sir Roger Penrose on Einstein’s general theory of relativity showed that there was an implied beginning to space and time — the Big Bang… However, for all his fame and impact on theoretical physics, his field’s most famous award eluded Hawking throughout his life. So why did one of science’s most iconic pioneers never win a Nobel Prize in Physics? The answer — unlike quantum mechanics — is relatively straightforward. Theoretical scientific discoveries have to be confirmed by observational data before there’s a possibility of winning a Nobel. …to put this into context, Einstein’s theory of gravitational waves in space, which he first proposed in the 1920s, was only recently proven in 2016.”

Flag on the play? - Email us at
HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM with your tips, comments or questions.

Trump job performance 
Average approval: 
40.2 percent 
Average disapproval: 54.6 percent 
Net Score: 
-14.4 points
Change from one week ago: up 4.2 points 
[Average includes: George Washington University: 42% approve - 55% disapprove; CBS News: 38% approve - 57% disapprove; Gallup: 39% approve - 56% disapprove; Marist College: 44% approve - 49% disapprove; Quinnipiac University: 38% approve - 56% disapprove.]

Control of House
Republican average: 37.8 percent
Democratic average: 49.6 percent
Advantage: Democrats plus 11.8 points
Change from one week ago: Democratic advantage down 0.4 points 
[Average includes: George Washington University: 49% Dems - 40% GOP; Quinnipiac University: 48% Dems - 38% GOP; Monmouth University: 50% Dems - 41% GOP; USA Today/Suffolk: 47% Dems - 32% GOP; CNN: 54% Dems - 38% GOP.]

This week Dana Perino and Chris Stirewalt explain the result – or lack thereof – of the Special Election in Pennsylvania’s 18th Congressional District. Plus, Chris tries to keep his hot hand in trivia and Dana talks about her rough weekend. LISTEN AND SUBSCRIBE HERE

[Ed. note: Chris Stirewalt is away – by which we mean he is holed up in his garret, hiding from his publisher and trying to finish the book he loves but that may be trying to kill him. He will return, Lord and the Louisiana Historical Society willing, on March 21. In lieu of flowers, please send coffee and bacon.]

Fox News: “It could come down to a recount. Democrat Conor Lamb has already declared victory over Republican Rick Saccone in Pennsylvania’s special House election, but Republicans say they aren’t giving up until every vote is counted. The contest has still not been called, but Lamb leads Saccone by a few hundred votes. There’s no mandatory recount for a federal race in Pennsylvania, but Republicans have the option of petitioning for one. ‘This race is too close to call and we’re ready to ensure that every legal vote is counted,’ National Republican Congressional Committee spokesman Matt Gorman said late Tuesday. ‘Once they are, we’re confident Rick Saccone will be the newest Republican member of Congress.’ As of Wednesday morning, Lamb's lead stood at just 641 votes -- out of more than 224,000 votes cast, according to unofficial results. Election officials said there are about 200 absentee votes and an unknown number of provisional ballots still to be counted. Even though the race has yet to be called, Lamb already declared victory in the race late Tuesday.”

Pa. special gives ominous warning to GOP - WashEx: “The Republican collapse in a Tuesday special election in Southwest Pennsylvania has reignited fears that enactment of the historic tax overhaul won’t help the party escape the midterm downdraft from President Trump. … It wasn't the blowout some Republicans feared, but the development signals a toxic political atmosphere made more so by a polarizing president whose domination of the media has overwhelmed good news about the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act and its positive impact on the economy. Most worrisome to senior Republicans — that incumbents used to electoral booms under President Barack Obama are ill-prepared for what’s coming. ‘It’s getting too late for some of these members to turn things around,’ said GOP strategist Jeff Burton… Even if Saccone, a state senator, ends up winning, Republican insiders say their nominee and the campaign he ran are prime examples of how to lose an imminently winnable race, especially in this environment.”

Kraushaar: Something similar happened in Virginia’s gov. race - WaPo: “Republican Ed Gillespie initially made a proposal for tax cuts the centerpiece of his campaign. When that failed to excite conservatives, he embraced divisive wedge issues. Gillespie defended Confederate monuments, attacked his opponent on sanctuary cities and called him weak on the MS-13 street gang. Democrat Ralph Northam won anyway. Money was essentially no object in Pennsylvania. National Republicans spent at least $10.7 million to help Saccone, more than five times as much as their Democratic rivals. They will not be able to do that in every close race this fall. What’s wild about that spending is this race was almost entirely for bragging rights.”

Fox News: “Conservative commentator and former Reagan administration official Larry Kudlow has accepted the job of White House National Economic Council director, replacing Gary Cohn, Fox News has learned. President Trump offered Kudlow the job just one week after Cohn resigned from his post as the president’s chief economic adviser, a senior administration official told Fox News. Kudlow’s extensive career in finance includes stints working for the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and serving as a chief economist and senior managing director at Bear Stearns, the defunct investment bank that failed during the 2008 financial crisis. Kudlow served as the associate director for economics and planning in the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) during former President Ronald Reagan’s first term. Kudlow is now a CNBC senior contributor and was previously the host of CNBC's prime-time ‘The Kudlow Report.’”

Sessions mulling firing McCabe before he retires - Fox News: “Attorney General Jeff Sessions is considering firing top FBI official Andrew McCabe before he officially retires from the bureau in a few days, a move that could deprive the outgoing deputy director of pension benefits, Fox News has confirmed. Sources said if McCabe is terminated by close of business this Friday, that would mean McCabe would not receive a government pension. ‘The Department follows a prescribed process by which an employee may be terminated,’ DOJ spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores said in a statement. ‘That process includes recommendations from career employees and no termination decision is final until the conclusion of that process.  We have no personnel announcements at this time.’”

Is VA Secretary Shulkin the next to go? - NYT: “President Trump, fresh off replacing his secretary of state and C.I.A. director, is considering firing his secretary of veterans affairs and installing Energy Secretary Rick Perry in the post, according to two people close to the White House. Mr. Trump did not make a formal offer to Mr. Perry when the two men met on Monday. But the people said the president has grown impatient with the department’s current secretary, Dr. David Shulkin, and may want to replace him with someone already in his cabinet. It was unclear if Mr. Perry, who was an Air Force pilot before entering politics, would accept the change in position if Mr. Trump offered it, or if Mr. Trump had a successor in mind to lead the Energy Department. The White House did not immediately respond to requests for comment, nor did Dr. Shulkin.”

WaPo: “White House officials have told key Republican leaders on Capitol Hill that President Trump is open to cutting a deal in an upcoming spending bill to protect young immigrants from deportation in exchange for border wall funding, according to four GOP officials briefed on the talks. The offer could represent a significant shift for Trump, who in January insisted on much broader immigration restrictions in exchange for any protections for ‘dreamers’ — the young immigrants brought to the United States illegally as children, some of whom have been protected under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that Trump canceled in September. Now, with the DACA cancellation tied up in the courts and no clear path for stand-alone immigration legislation, the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the negotiations, said Trump is warming to a simpler deal that would allow his administration to quickly start work on a U.S.-Mexico border wall — a centerpiece of his 2016 presidential campaign.”

Congress faces shutdown pressures amidst spending talks -
The Hill: “Congress is scrambling to avoid its third government shutdown of the year as lawmakers slog through negotiations ahead of next week’s deadline. Republicans had hoped to buy themselves some extra time by having the House vote on a mammoth funding bill this week. … But that timeline appears to be slipping amid a standoff on controversial policy riders. Senators are now predicting the legislation will be filed by Friday — or as late as Sunday. Either day would drive Congress’s spending drama down to the wire. Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), the next chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said negotiators are winnowing down the number of ‘poison pills’ — provisions suggested for inclusion in the package considered non-starters by either party. ‘We’re still negotiating…’ he said.”

Schumer tries to refocus Warren - Politico: “[Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer] didn’t tell [Sen. Elizabeth Warren] to stop attacking the bill or to dig in. But he urged her to focus her opposition on the bill’s policies — not individual Democratic senators… Still, Warren largely stuck to her hard-edged tactics in the days afterward, regularly lashing what she calls the ‘Bank Lobbyist Act’ and those who support it. For Schumer, the banking bill and its rollback of some of the Dodd-Frank financial reform law’s regulations has been quite the tightrope to walk. The minority leader has to balance the needs of moderate caucus members who are desperate for a bipartisan accomplishment heading into brutal reelection races, and the priorities of liberals like Warren who believe they are fighting for the heart and soul of the Democratic Party.”

Roll Call: “No matter what happens in the November elections, the House of Representatives will be a body transformed. At least eight of the chamber’s sitting committee chairmen are quitting Congress — and two additional chiefs have already given up their gavels. These exits come at a cost to the institution, as House Republicans will lose policy expertise, political savvy and procedural prowess. That power vacuum is likely to complicate the already challenging prospects for deal-making and bipartisan compromise when the 116th Congress convenes in January, regardless of which political party wins control of the chamber. The wave of retirements is sparking a renewed debate about whether House GOP term limits imposed on committee chairmen are worth it and whether the concentrated power in leadership offices, at the expense of committees, should continue.”

Trump heads to St. Louis to visit Boeing - St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Students across the country walk out to protest gun violence - AP

Schiff releases Dem’s Russia investigation findings - Axios

“There is no transitive property to marriage. If Bill Clinton could play the xylophone, Hillary Clinton wouldn’t have gained the skill when she said, ‘I do.’” – Jonah Goldberg writing for the National Review.  

People:Elsa from Frozen is a hero to many and now some of her biggest fans include Boston’s finest. As a snowstorm swept Boston late Tuesday, a police wagon found itself stuck in a snowbank in the city‘s South End. Coming to the rescue was an unlikely hero – a man dressed in drag as the famed Disney heroine, Elsa. ‘Elsa’ who faced the blizzard in a long, flowing blue dress and a silver wig, single-handedly helped pushed the police vehicle out of the snow – much to the excitement of those taking shelter at The Gallows, a gastropub. … [Pub patron Chris Haynes] posted a video of ‘Elsa’ coming to the rescue on his Facebook, and it quickly went viral, with many asking about the wigged-crusader’s true identity. And PEOPLE can reveal ‘Elsa’ is, in fact, Jason Triplett, 37, an attorney from Boston, who says the escapade was the result of cabin fever brought on by the blizzard.”

Brianna McClelland
contributed to this report. Want FOX News Halftime Report in your inbox every day? Sign up here.