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President Trump’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 Wolf, a former chief of staff to former Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, 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.

{mosads}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 Duke, who by statute was in position to be named acting secretary when John Kelly 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 Thompson (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 Miller’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 Schumer (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.

Tags Bennie Thompson Chad Wolf Chuck Schumer CNN Donald Trump Elaine Duke John Kelly Ken Cuccinelli Kirstjen Nielsen Stephen Miller The Washington Post

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