The Senate Homeland Security Committee voted to advance the nomination of Alejandro Mayorkas as secretary of homeland security, teeing up a full Senate vote on his confirmation.
The committee voted 7 to 4 to send his nomination to the Senate floor on Tuesday, with one additional vote against the nomination cast by proxy. GOP Senators Ron Johnson, James Lankford, Rick Scott, Josh Hawley and Rand Paul voted against advancing Mayorkas to a full Senate vote.
Mayorkas testified before the committee last week.
Johnson led the charge among those registering their opposition, voicing concerns over a 2015 Department of Homeland Security (DHS) inspector general’s report that found Mayorkas pushed for the approval of applications for a program for wealthy immigrant investors on the behalf of well-connected Democrats when he served as director of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
“My preference would have been not to air this dirty laundry publicly. I would have hoped that President Biden would have had better sense to nominate and carry forth with the nomination,” the outgoing chairman stated. He later added, “I’ve had a good working relationship with Mr. Mayorkas as deputy secretary of DHS and hope to work with him in good faith if he is confirmed as secretary. I simply cannot support his nomination and I would urge members not to as well.”
GOP Senators Rob Portman and Mitt Romney expressed their concern with regard to the 2015 report, but ultimately voted in favor of pushing his nomination through to the upper chamber.
“We’ve just endured a president over four years, who I will say generously, had a relaxed relationship with the truth. And I think we want the highest level of integrity in positions of government,” Romney remarked, noting that Mayorkas’ acknowledged his errors in a private conversation and vowed to learn from them.
“This is a tough one,” Portman conceded. Ultimately, the Senator from Ohio reasoned that Mayorkas’ fate was already sealed. “He’s going to be confirmed. The question is how quickly is he going to be in place,” he told his colleagues, noting the importance of putting a secretary at the helm of DHS in the aftermath of the Solar Winds cyberattack.
Soon-to-be Democratic Chairman Gary Peters urged colleagues to “expedite” Mayorkas’ confirmation “as much as possible.”
“In fact, every day that this confirmation process is delayed, places the American people and our national security risk from threats posed by domestic terrorism, from cyber-attacks and the ongoing pandemic and so much more,” Peters said.
Senators wished Portman well following his announcement that he will retire from the Senate in 2022. Then Romney interjected with a laugh, “Don’t be too concerned about him leaving, because he’s just organizing his campaign for president.”