McCain: Nuclear option already weakening Senate oversight

Greg Nash

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said Friday that the decision by Senate Democrats to stop the filibustering of executive branch nominations is already weakening congressional oversight of these nominees.

McCain said he has been trying to get information from Jeh Johnson, the nominee to be the next secretary of Homeland Security, about what steps he would take to ensure 90 percent effective control of the southern U.S. border. But McCain said Johnson has declined to answer and that he and other Republicans are powerless to get the information without the filibuster.

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"The only way I could have gotten this information from Mr. Johnson was if I'd have said, 'I can't approve of your nomination until you provide the information,' " McCain said on the Senate floor.

McCain noted that Johnson is expected to be confirmed to his new post on Monday, under new rules that allow nominees to advance with a simple majority vote. He said that sets a precedent that would allow other Democratic nominations to be confirmed without answering questions from Republicans.

"So now, Johnson be confirmed, and the message will go out," McCain said. "Believe me, the message will go out: 'You don't have to answer a question by a Republican senator.' "

McCain said he just came from a meeting with Johnson in his office, where Johnson again declined to offer any information. McCain said the Obama administration is "allegedly" telling Johnson not to answer.

"Why would the White House prevent the nominee for the Secretary of Homeland Security from providing members of the Senate and members of the committee that [oversees] Homeland Security information which is fundamental information if we are going to achieve effective control of our borders?" he asked.

Like other Republicans, McCain warned that Democrats have made a serious mistake in ending the filibuster of nominations, and said Democrats would regret this move when Republicans are in power again.

"I've been here long enough … that what goes around, comes around," he said. "And what goes around will come around, and to their deep regret, someday … you will regret it.

"If you think it was dysfunctional before, wait and see."