National Security

Biden DHS pick advances in Senate, clearing Republican hurdle

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Senate Democrats drew the support of some Republicans Thursday in advancing the nomination of Alejandro Mayorkas, President Biden’s pick to lead the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), after Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) placed a hold on his nomination in committee.

The 55-42 vote ticks off the procedural hurdle before the Senate must vote to formally confirm him on Monday.

The additional vote was due to opposition from Republicans. 

Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) blamed Hawley along with others, saying “because of the tactics of some Republican members, particularly the junior senator from Missouri, Mr. Mayorkas’s nomination is being needlessly stalled.”

Hawley had requested a hold after he argued Mayorkas’s alignment with Biden’s immigration plan and calls to stop the border wall deserved more scrutiny.

But the delays have enraged Democrats as well as former homeland security officials on both sides of the aisle who said the tradition of confirming national security positions right after the inauguration should be maintained in a critical time.

“Our country is facing dangerous threats to our security and to our national security. Violence and domestic terrorism spurred on by white supremacy ideology and anti-government sentiment and conspiracy theories continues to rise. We saw the tragic and deadly result of that growing threat right here in the Capitol just three weeks ago, and just yesterday Homeland Security issued a counterterrorism bulletin warning possible further violence in the coming weeks,” Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.), chair of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said on the floor. 

“The Department of Homeland Security should be leading a forceful response to these complex and significant threats and protecting Americans,” he said, adding it needs a confirmed leader as soon as possible.

If confirmed, Mayorkas would be the first Cuban American to lead the Department of Homeland Security. He served as the department’s deputy under the Obama administration after leading the Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS) wing.

But Republicans have expressed concern over a 2015 inspector general report from Mayorkas’s days at CIS that found he intervened in immigration cases at the behest of some Democrats. Mayorkas has said he stepped into a broken process on behalf of lawmakers from both parties.

The EB-5 visas in question allow for travel in cases where the recipient plans to make major investments.

“I’m concerned that Mr. Mayorkas did not seem to express any regret whatsoever for his previous actions during his recent confirmation hearing before the Homeland Security Committee. Instead, he appeared to take the view that interfering in EB-5 cases on behalf of well-connected politicians and stakeholders was somehow the same as casework help offered to Americans who experienced problems with the international adoption systems. It was a baffling comparison,” said Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), who previously sought information from Mayorkas when the investigation was first underway.

Updated: 7 p.m.

Tags Alejandro Mayorkas Chuck Grassley Chuck Schumer cloture vote Department of Homeland Security Gary Peters Josh Hawley

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