The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on Tuesday approved the nomination of Alejandro Mayorkas to be the Biden administration’s Secretary of Homeland Security, with the next stop being a vote by the full Senate.
The 7-4 vote of those present included Republicans Rob Portman (Ohio) and Mitt Romney (Utah) voting in favor. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who was not present, voted no by proxy, bringing the official vote to 7-5 in favor.
Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), the committee chair, voted against the nomination due to his concerns that Mayorkas shouldn’t have intervened in a foreign investment visa program on behalf of politically connected individuals during the first half of the Obama administration when he was in charge of U.S. Citizenship and Immigrations Services, the Department of Homeland Security agency that adjudicates immigration benefits.
Johnson highlighted a 2015 DHS Inspector General report that investigated Mayorkas’ actions, citing several instances when Biden’s nominee acted on behalf of Democrats. Mayorkas in his confirmation hearing last week said he stepped in to fix a broken investment visa program and that he also worked to satisfy concerns of Democrats and Republicans while he was director of the agency.
Romney, who said he spoke with Mayorkas before, during and after his confirmation hearing, said Mayorkas told him that he has learned from his mistakes and that if he had to do it all over again, he wouldn’t. He added that Mayorkas told him he had erred and acknowledged that he had lost credibility at the time.
Mayorkas later became Deputy Secretary of DHS during the second half of the Obama administration and had a good working relationship with Republicans and Democrats in Congress.
The Senate is expected to confirm Mayorkas given that Democrats hold half the seats in the chamber and the tie-breaking vote with Vice President Kamala Harris.