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Chad Wolf becomes acting DHS secretary

Chad Wolf becomes acting DHS secretary
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President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden says GOP senators have called to congratulate him Biden: Trump attending inauguration is 'of consequence' to the country Biden says family will avoid business conflicts MORE’s fifth Homeland Security secretary took over in an acting capacity Wednesday, following a Senate vote to formally appoint him to a lower position within the department.

Chad WolfChad WolfFormer cyber official condemns Trump attorney for threats against Krebs, details ouster Biden picks first Latino to lead Homeland Security Republican senators urge Trump to label West Bank goods as 'Made in Israel' MORE, a former chief of staff to former Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen NielsenKirstjen Michele Nielsen'Anonymous' whistleblower Miles Taylor changing locations, employing private security after death threats Biden picks first Latino to lead Homeland Security Judge says acting DHS secretary appointment unlawful, invalidates DACA suspension MORE, was promoted to acting secretary shortly after receiving Senate confirmation as Department of Homeland Security (DHS) undersecretary for strategy, plans and policy, a DHS spokesman confirmed to The Hill.

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The promotion was necessary for the Trump administration to clear the department's statutory line of succession, which has been decimated by vacancies in virtually all high, Senate-confirmed positions.

Wolf emerged as a leading candidate for the job after Senate Republicans signaled to the White House that Trump's top pick, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) acting Director Ken Cuccinelli, would not receive Senate confirmation.

Cuccinelli, an immigration hardliner, is expected to be promoted to deputy secretary of DHS, according to a Wednesday report on CNN.

Succession at DHS has been a headache for the Trump administration since Nielsen resigned in April after nearly a year of butting heads with the president and others in the administration, particularly on immigration policy.

She'd been preceded by Deputy Secretary Elaine DukeElaine Costanzo DukeBiden picks first Latino to lead Homeland Security Appeals court sides with Trump over drawdown of immigrant protections Trump mulled selling Puerto Rico, former aide says MORE, who by statute was in position to be named acting secretary when John KellyJohn Francis KellyMORE resigned from the post to become White House chief of staff.

Nielsen was followed by Kevin McAleenan, a Senate-confirmed Customs and Border Patrol commissioner appointed as secretary in an acting capacity.

Wolf on Wednesday became the first acting secretary to succeed another non-Senate-confirmed secretary in the role.

Trump has said he likes having Cabinet members serving in an acting capacity because it gives him "more flexibility."

House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie ThompsonBennie Gordon ThompsonDeLauro wins Steering Committee vote for Appropriations chair Dangerously fast slaughter speeds are putting animals, people at greater risk during COVID-19 crisis House Democrats subpoena private prison operator in forced hysterectomy case MORE (D-Miss.) said in a statement Wednesday that Wolf "lacks the necessary experience" for the role and "when the job requirements include being a yes-man to the President and having [presidential adviser] Stephen MillerStephen MillerWhite House liaison barred from DOJ after pressing for sensitive information President says Trump Jr. doing 'very well' after COVID-19 diagnosis Donald Trump Jr. tests positive for COVID-19 MORE’s stamp of approval, no one qualified wants the job."

"The seven months the Homeland Security Secretary position has remained vacant, and without a nominee, is far too long for a Department charged with keeping the country secure. DHS needs well-qualified, permanent, Senate-confirmed leadership as soon as possible,” added Thompson.

Wolf faced some resistance in the Senate but was confirmed to the undersecretary job on a 54-41 vote, clearing the way for Trump to appoint him as acting secretary, which Senate Minority Leader Chuck SchumerChuck SchumerPelosi, Schumer endorse 8 billion plan as basis for stimulus talks Funding bill hits snag as shutdown deadline looms Trump supporters could hand Senate control to Democrats MORE (D-N.Y.) said the Senate had, in effect, voted to allow to happen.

"Senate Republicans have subverted the Senate’s constitutional duty to advise and consent and potentially robbed the Senate from ever voting on a permanent secretary of the Department of Homeland Security," said Schumer.

Beyond Wolf's unorthodox path to the top job at DHS, he had received criticism from both right and left on his substantive qualifications.

His appointment angered Democrats and immigration activists because of his role as Nielsen's chief of staff during the implementation of the “zero tolerance” policy, which resulted in more than 2,000 children being forcibly separated from their parents at the border.

Immigration hardliners on the right were also suspicious of Wolf, as he once lobbied in favor of work visas for foreign companies.

Still, Wolf won Miller's seal of approval, and his appointment with Cuccinelli as deputy ensures the department's main focus will remain immigration, despite its ample national security portfolio.

—Updated 5:11 p.m.