Will McCaul get a second look for homeland security chief?
In some WASHINGTON — ways, Michael McCaul should be a slam-dunk to be secretary of homeland security. The Republican congressman from Austin chairs a committee on the issue and has developed an expertise in border security, immigration, and cybersecurity during his dozen years in Congress.
But that doesn’t mean he’ll get the job.
McCaul, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee since 2013, was considered for the post last fall, but lost out to former Marine Corps Gen. John Kelly, who began work this week as White House chief of staff.
McCaul had waged a ferocious campaign to get it, and now his name has surfaced again as a candidate to head the agency. But McCaul is being hit from the right — again — for what critics say is his soft stance on immigration.
And he’s got some competition. Former Gov. Rick Perry, now the U.S. secretary of energy, is also being considered for the post, according to a Wednesday report from Bloomberg News, citing anonymous sources.
The Energy Department press office tweeted Wednesday: “While @SecretaryPerry is honored to be mentioned, he is happy where he is & focused on carrying out mission POTUS gave him to lead @ENERGY.”
There is also ongoing speculation that President Donald Trump may move beleaguered Attorney General Jeff Sessions to head the agency, which includes the Secret Service as well as all aspects of immigration control and transportation security.
An in-house prospect is Thomas Homan, acting director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, whose tough posture against unauthorized immigrants earned him praise Wednesday from White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.
She said there was no immediate announcement of a nomination for homeland security secretary.
Some McCaul supporters wonder if he wants to join a volatile Trump administration. McCaul was unavailable for comment, according to Homeland Security Committee spokeswoman Susan Phalen.
A source who has spoken to McCaul but would not speak on the record about a private conversation said McCaul is interested in the position but concerned that the Trump White House wants a hardliner.
Still, the restive McCaul, 55, who took a hard look at challenging U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz in 2018 but appears to have passed, may be ready for a move.
McCaul as homeland security secretary “actually makes perfect sense given his stature and position in homeland security circles,” said Ray Sullivan, an Austin-based GOP political consultant and former chief of staff to Perry. “He’s well versed in the threats and challenges of our adversaries. He published a book (“Failures of Imagination: The Deadliest Threats to Our Homeland and How to Thwart Them”) and has been a prolific presence on Fox and other media outlets as a voice for homeland security.”
Last week, McCaul led the effort on a Department of Homeland Security reauthorization bill, which the House passed overwhelmingly.
He also introduced a border security bill that calls for a combination of technology and a physical barrier on the U.S.-Mexico border — a potential sore point with Trump who campaigned on building a wall.
In a tweet, Mark Krikorian, executive director of the conservative Center for Immigration Studies said, “House Homeland Chairman McCaul was angling for the DHS job last time, but his reputation as ‘No Wall McCaul’ should be a deal-killer.”
McCaul can point to his credentials as chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee and travels to international hot spots to learn about threats to the U.S., as well as his ability to work with Democrats in getting legislation passed.
Michael McCaul (top) a Republican congressman from Austin, was considered for the post last fall, but lost out to John Kelly. Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry (above), now the U.S. secretary of energy, is also being considered.