Senate confirms Alejandro Mayorkas to lead Homeland Security and Pete Buttigieg as transportation secretary

The Senate voted Tuesday to confirm Alejandro Mayorkas as...

Posted: Feb 3, 2021 9:29 AM

The Senate voted Tuesday to confirm Alejandro Mayorkas as Homeland Security secretary, the first Latino and immigrant to serve at the helm of the department.

His confirmation will fill a critical role in the new administration and he'll be expected to swiftly begin rolling back Trump administration immigration policies while juggling the response to a global pandemic and national security threats, along with restoring a department that's been rattled by leadership turnover and vacancies in recent years.

The Senate also voted Tuesday to confirm Pete Buttigieg as transportation secretary, making him the first Senate-confirmed LGBTQ Cabinet secretary.

Buttigieg's confirmation elevates the former South Bend, Indiana, mayor and 2020 Democratic presidential candidate to a top post in the federal government.

The choice vaults a candidate President Joe Biden spoke glowingly of after the primary into a top job in his administration and could earn Buttigieg what many Democrats believe is needed experience should he run for president again.

The role of transportation secretary is expected to play a central role in Biden's push for a bipartisan infrastructure package.

Before Tuesday, just four of Biden's 23 Cabinet-level nominees requiring Senate approval had so far been confirmed: Antony Blinken as secretary of state, Janet Yellen as treasury secretary, Lloyd Austin as secretary of defense and Avril Haines as national intelligence director.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer had pushed to have Mayorkas confirmed swiftly, but Republicans argued that the nominee hasn't been properly vetted on immigration issues and called for an additional hearing on his nomination, delaying efforts to quickly install a critical leader of the country's national security apparatus.

Under former President Barack Obama, Mayorkas served as both the Homeland Security deputy secretary and the director of the US Citizenship and Immigration Services, an immigration agency within the department.

Republican pushback to his nomination sparked criticism from Democrats, with some calling it indefensible. The resistance come as as the Department of Homeland Security grapples with the coronavirus pandemic, national security concerns and immigration.

Last week, DHS issued a threat bulletin due to the ongoing potential for violence in the wake of the presidential inauguration, including concerns that domestic extremists may be emboldened by the US Capitol attack earlier this month.

The department has been without a Senate-confirmed leader since Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen was ousted in spring 2019.

Several Republican senators did, however, cross party lines to vote with Democrats in support of breaking the filibuster of the nomination, including Sens. Mitt Romney of Utah, Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Rob Portman of Ohio and Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia.

The use of the filibuster -- to stall nominations or legislation -- has long been a favored tool of the minority party, something Democrats did often when trying to derail and delay the Republican agenda under then-President Donald Trump.

While several of Biden's nominees have been confirmed and have moved at a slower pace than some of his predecessors' Cabinet picks, Republicans had not yet threatened to filibuster a nominee until Wednesday. Mayorkas is now the first.

The Senate Homeland Security Committee advanced Mayorkas' nomination to the floor and held a hearing examining the nominee's qualifications to lead the department.

But some Republicans called for a separate hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, in addition to his hearing before the Homeland Security Committee.

Several GOP senators, led by Texas Sen. John Cornyn, called for the additional hearing, citing Mayorkas' role overseeing many of the Biden administration's immigration policies.

"The Committee on the Judiciary has jurisdiction over matters relating to immigration and nationality ... For this reason, all members of the committee should have the opportunity to hear from Mr. Mayorkas directly, and to publicly discuss with him his plans with respect to the Department's immigration components and functions," a letter from the senators said making their request.

Cornyn told reporters last week "there's a number of problems" with the Mayorkas nomination.

Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, who is set to chair the Judiciary Committee, told CNN of the hearing request, "I don't see why that's necessary" and called it "totally political."

"This is indefensible," Durbin said. "We are withholding the leadership of the Department of Homeland Security."

This story and headline have been updated to reflect additional developments Tuesday.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1000163

Reported Deaths: 16309
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1347632106
Lake660041156
Allen57441793
Hamilton46100461
St. Joseph44109607
Elkhart35696507
Vanderburgh32087477
Tippecanoe27796257
Johnson24902443
Hendricks23738354
Porter22802362
Madison18614404
Clark18424250
Vigo17347301
Monroe15180197
LaPorte15046250
Delaware14984259
Howard14626287
Kosciusko12217147
Hancock11630175
Bartholomew11505179
Warrick11255189
Floyd11013214
Wayne10897250
Grant9964218
Morgan9404176
Boone8863116
Dubois8227130
Dearborn817093
Henry8139151
Noble7984106
Marshall7838134
Cass7499119
Lawrence7403170
Shelby7138114
Jackson694088
Gibson6533113
Harrison644491
Huntington633999
Knox6273106
DeKalb626397
Montgomery6208109
Miami589797
Putnam575377
Clinton570271
Whitley560455
Steuben554675
Wabash5279101
Jasper524475
Jefferson506996
Ripley495685
Adams476073
Daviess4616113
Scott435869
Greene422096
Wells420987
Clay420260
White415962
Decatur4133101
Fayette404286
Jennings385160
Posey375343
LaGrange353978
Washington353249
Randolph341999
Spencer337342
Fountain332558
Sullivan326752
Starke313369
Owen312070
Fulton306567
Orange291762
Jay280445
Perry264752
Franklin264042
Carroll259132
Rush258832
Vermillion255454
Parke230026
Pike227943
Tipton226659
Blackford190540
Pulaski181855
Crawford158623
Newton156048
Benton150217
Brown144547
Martin137419
Switzerland134211
Warren120516
Union106815
Ohio84112
Unassigned0538

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1499485

Reported Deaths: 23327
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin1626291662
Cuyahoga1447662412
Hamilton1044761409
Montgomery731681240
Summit610421094
Lucas55643904
Butler51076707
Stark459431053
Lorain35141568
Warren32476369
Mahoning30315672
Clermont27930321
Lake26669434
Delaware23960162
Licking23547283
Trumbull22550552
Fairfield22179241
Greene22098311
Medina21763305
Clark19630349
Richland18342280
Portage17696247
Wood17244220
Allen15730269
Miami15355296
Muskingum14551174
Columbiana13756263
Wayne13585263
Tuscarawas12479298
Marion11797175
Scioto11388154
Pickaway11286141
Erie10676180
Ross10462196
Lawrence9663137
Hancock9546149
Ashtabula9479197
Belmont9133197
Geauga8829157
Jefferson8481191
Huron8229139
Union810756
Washington8031137
Sandusky7724145
Athens769572
Knox7606138
Darke7553151
Seneca7208144
Ashland6817125
Auglaize667896
Shelby6410111
Brown628582
Crawford6184130
Defiance6087102
Mercer608293
Fulton592996
Highland590099
Madison587576
Clinton576190
Logan574692
Guernsey572467
Preble5660121
Putnam5250108
Williams520184
Perry512561
Champaign505071
Jackson498770
Ottawa479086
Coshocton471582
Morrow451256
Pike430762
Fayette422160
Adams411587
Gallia411265
Hardin411076
Van Wert364078
Henry357871
Holmes3567122
Hocking352578
Wyandot317961
Carroll297059
Paulding275945
Meigs259249
Monroe212953
Noble196546
Morgan190832
Harrison178242
Vinton162624
Unassigned05
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