May 21 (UPI) — The Senate on Thursday confirmed Rep. John Ratcliffe to be the new director of national intelligence.
The Texas Republican’s nomination passed with a 49-44 vote along party lines. He received more votes against him than any other DNI confirmed in the job’s 15-year history.
Ratcliffe will replace acting Director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell.
During his confirmation hearing earlier this month, he told the Senate intelligence committee he would make China and the origins of the novel coronavirus his primary focus.
“If confirmed the intelligence committee will be laser focused on getting all of the answers that we can regarding how this happened, when this happened, and I commit to providing with as much transparency to you as the law will allow and with due regard for sources and methods,” Ratcliffe told the panel.
“All roads lead to China,” he said, referencing cybersecurity threats and COVID-19’s origins in Wuhan.
Ratcliffe also sought to reassure the panel he wouldn’t let politics affect his job as the country’s chief intelligence officer. Senators expressed skepticism over his ability to be impartial after being seen as a strong ally of Trump.
Trump twice nominated Ratcliffe to be director of national intelligence, first last July after Dan Coats chose to step down from the position. He stepped aside less than a week later citing media scrutiny, which targeted his experience. Critics accused the congressman of padding his resume. His second nomination came in February.
Ratcliffe, 53, has served as the U.S. representative for Texas’ 4th District since 2015 and serves on the House Committee on Intelligence. He previously worked as a U.S. attorney and federal terrorism prosecutor and as mayor of the city of Heath, Texas.
The position of director of national intelligence was created in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks as a means of fostering inter-agency dialogue and cooperation among the 16 agencies that make up the U.S. intelligence-gathering network.