The Senate on Tuesday approved by a vote of 56 to 43 the nomination of Alejandro Mayorkas to be the next Secretary of Homeland Security.
Mayorkas is the first Senate-confirmed department secretary in nearly two years.
The confirmation means that David Pekoske, who had been acting as the Department of Homeland Security secretary since President Joe Biden took office on Jan. 20, is now the acting deputy secretary of the department.
Six Republican Senators voted in favor of the Mayorkas nomination, giving a wisp of bipartisan backing to the nominee who was under attack by Republicans for intervening in a foreign investment visa program while he was director of the DHS US Citizenship and Immigration Services agency during the first half of the Obama administration.
The Republicans supporting the nomination were Shelley Moore Capito (W.Va.), Susan Collins (Maine), Rob Portman (Ohio), Mitt Romney (Utah), and Alaskans Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan. Although he had scant support from Republicans during the confirmation process, Mayorkas has a strong reputation for working with members on both sides of the aisle in Congress.
Kirstjen Nielsen was the most previous Senate-confirmed DHS Secretary, who served from December 2017 until her resignation in April 2019. Her successors during the Trump administration, Kevin McAleenan, Chad Wolf and Peter Gaynor, all served in acting capacities.
In addition to leading USCIS, Mayorkas was the deputy secretary of DHS the last four years of the Obama administration.
Mayorkas will be immediately confronted with managing the Biden administration’s immigration policies, helping with the ongoing federal response to the COVID-19 pandemic, sorting out how to strengthen the cyber security posture of federal civilian agencies and the nation’s critical infrastructure following the recently disclosed network breaches by Russian-backed hackers, and quickly crafting the administration’s fiscal year 2022 budget request for the department.