Alejandro Mayorkas's nomination to be the next deputy Homeland Security secretary is headed to the full Senate, over strong objections from a key Republican.
The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee approved Mayorkas's nomination by a 9-0 vote on Wednesday. Ranking member Tom Coburn called the move "a disservice" to the committee, which he said has largely avoided partisanship.
Mayorkas's nomination has been ensnared in controversy after an email was sent to lawmakers in July revealing that Mayorkas is under investigation by the Homeland Security Department's Inspector General Office. The investigation is looking into a program run by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services—a department Mayorkas has overseen since August 2009. He has denied any wrongdoing.
Because of the ongoing investigation, Republican committee members voted present. After the vote, Coburn said Committee Chairman Tom Carper's decision to move forward on the nomination discredits the investigation and the whistle-blowers that came forward earlier this year.
"This hearing really isn't about [Mayorkas]. It's about process, and that's where the problems are," Coburn said. The Oklahoma Republican pointed to a lack of precedence on considering nominees that are under investigation, adding that "history is telling us clearly not to move forward."
Carper said investigators told him earlier this month that Mayorkas has yet to be tied to any wrongdoing. The investigation isn't expected to wrap up until February.
Mayorkas was nominated in late June to replace Jane Holl Lute, who resigned from the department in May. Carper pointed to DHS's current dependence on filling top positions with temporary leadership as a key reason to push forward with the nomination.
"I mean no disrespect to leaders serving in acting roles … but acting leadership is no substitute," the Delaware Democrat said.