Chad Wolf becomes acting DHS secretary

Chad Wolf becomes acting DHS secretary
© Getty

President TrumpDonald John TrumpLawmakers release defense bill with parental leave-for-Space-Force deal House Democrats expected to unveil articles of impeachment Tuesday Houston police chief excoriates McConnell, Cornyn and Cruz on gun violence 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 WolfHillicon Valley: Amazon alleges Trump interfered in Pentagon contract to hurt Bezos | Federal council warns Trump of cyber threats to infrastructure | China to remove foreign technology from government offices Documentary groups challenge Trump administration's vetting of immigrants' social media White House backs Stephen Miller amid white nationalist allegations MORE, a former chief of staff to former Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen NielsenKirstjen Michele NielsenTrump puts Kushner in charge of overseeing border wall construction: report Hillicon Valley: Google to limit political ad targeting | Senators scrutinize self-driving car safety | Trump to 'look at' Apple tariff exemption | Progressive lawmakers call for surveillance reforms | House panel advances telecom bills Minority lawmakers call out Google for hiring former Trump DHS official 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.

ADVERTISEMENT

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 DukeChad Wolf becomes acting DHS secretary Senate paves way for Trump's next DHS chief Five things to watch at Supreme Court's DACA hearings 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 ThompsonJudge temporarily halts construction of a private border wall in Texas Hillicon Valley: FCC moves against Huawei, ZTE | Dem groups ask Google to reconsider ads policy | Bill introduced to increase data access during probes House GOP criticizes impeachment drive as distracting from national security issues 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 MillerSenate Democrats demand Trump fire Stephen Miller Marianne Williamson roasted for claim Trump pardoned Charles Manson Juan Williams: Stephen Miller must be fired 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 SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerTikTok chief cancels Capitol Hill meetings, inflaming tensions Overnight Health Care — Presented by That's Medicaid — Deal on surprise medical bills faces obstacles | House GOP unveils rival drug pricing measure ahead of Pelosi vote | Justices to hear case over billions in ObamaCare payments Overnight Health Care — Presented by Johnson & Johnson — Democrats call on Supreme Court to block Louisiana abortion law | Michigan governor seeks to pause Medicaid work requirements | New front in fight over Medicaid block grants 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.