Se­na­tors may de­lay a vote on DHS nom­i­nee Want an­swers on key ques­tions first

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY STEPHEN DINAN

Se­na­tors said Wed­nes­day they are im­pressed with Pres­i­dent Obama’s choice to head the Depart­ment of Home­land Se­cu­rity, but that Jeh C. John­son’s nom­i­na­tion will suf­fer de­lays and op­po­si­tion un­til he is more forth­com­ing in an­swer­ing key ques­tions.

Sen. John McCain, Ari­zona Repub­li­can, went the fur­thest, say­ing he can­not vote for Mr. John­son un­til the nom­i­nee pledges to tell Congress ex­actly what it will take to se­cure the bor­der with Mex­ico — an as­sur­ance Mr. John­son was re­luc­tant to give dur­ing his con­fir­ma­tion hear­ing Wed­nes­day.

Sen. Tom Coburn, rank­ing Repub­li­can on the Se­nate Home­land Se­cu­rity and Gov­ern­men­tal Af­fairs Com­mit­tee, said that he ex­pects Mr. John­son to earn enough sup­port to be con­firmed as the fourth sec­re­tary of Home­land Se­cu­rity, but that his ap­pli­ca­tion will be held up un­til he pro­vides real an­swers to about two dozen ques­tions that Mr. Coburn said were ef­fec­tively ig­nored in an of­fi­cial ques­tion­naire.

“Un­til those are cor­rected, and we ac­tu­ally have Mr. John­son’s re­sponse, I will not con­sider that his ques­tion­naire has been com­pleted,” the Ok­la­homa law­maker said.

The Depart­ment of Home­land Se­cu­rity is op­er­at­ing with­out sev­eral lead­ers whose po­si­tions re­quire con­fir­ma­tion, in­clud­ing the sec­re­tary, deputy sec­re­tary and chiefs of two of the im­mi­gra­tion ser­vices.

Mr. John­son has been a fed­eral prose­cu­tor and lawyer in pri­vate prac­tice, but his chief ex­pe­ri­ence was serv­ing as the top lawyer in the De­fense Depart­ment dur­ing Mr. Obama’s first term.

Late Tues­day, the White House re­leased a let­ter signed by all three pre­vi­ous Home­land Se­cu­rity sec­re­taries en­dors­ing Mr. John­son as a wor­thy suc­ces­sor.

“Lead­ing a depart­ment the size and

HOME­LAND SE­CU­RITY SEC­RE­TARY NOM­I­NEE JEH C. JOHN­SON

Age: Birth date: Born in: Ed­u­ca­tion:

Pro­fes­sional ex­pe­ri­ence: scope of DHS is a unique chal­lenge. Mr. John­son’s ex­pe­ri­ence and abil­ity makes him an em­i­nently qual­i­fied nom­i­nee,” wrote for­mer sec­re­taries Tom Ridge, Michael Chertoff and Janet A. Napoli­tano.

In many ways, though, Mr. John­son’s nom­i­na­tion is suf­fer­ing be­cause of the legacy left by those sec­re­taries.

Se­na­tors re­peat­edly crit­i­cized the sprawl­ing depart­ment for not be­ing more re­spon­sive to re­quests for in­for­ma­tion, par­tic­u­larly when it comes to the thorny is­sue of im­mi­gra­tion.

Mr. Coburn said Ms. Napoli­tano, the most re­cent sec­re­tary, failed to turn over bor­der se­cu­rity plans. Mr. McCain added that while he was try­ing to write an im­mi­gra­tion bill ear­lier this year, the depart­ment wouldn’t tell him what re­sources were needed to get to a point where they were stop­ping 90 per­cent of il­le­gal bor­der cross­ings.

Mr. Coburn de­manded Mr. John­son agree to turn over that in­for­ma­tion when con­firmed, but Mr. John­son wouldn’t give an ab­so­lute com­mit­ment. He only said he was in­clined to be re­spon­sive and is wor­ried there might be rea­sons he can’t pro­vide that in­for­ma­tion.

“I think I need to talk to peo­ple at DHS to bet­ter un­der­stand the is­sue,” he said.

Mr. McCain, whose bor­der state takes much of the brunt of il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion, said that wasn’t good enough.

“I will not sup­port your nom­i­na­tion un­til I get a ‘yes’ an­swer,” he said.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Jeh C. John­son, Pres­i­dent Obama’s choice to be­come Home­land Se­cu­rity sec­re­tary, tells se­na­tors Wed­nes­day that fill­ing lead­er­ship va­can­cies and im­prov­ing morale is more crit­i­cal cur­rently than the depart­ment’s core coun­tert­er­ror­ism mis­sion.

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