Will McCaul get a sec­ond look for home­land se­cu­rity chief?

Austin American-Statesman - - MORE OF TODAY’S TOP NEWS - By Maria Re­cio Amer­i­can-States­man special correspondent

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.

JAC­QUE­LYN MARTIN / AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

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.

MARY HU­BER / BASTROP AD­VER­TISER

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