Jeh Johnson Confirmed as Homeland Security Secretary

He will take over a department that is plagued by low morale and leadership vacancies.

Jeh Johnson speaks after he was nominated by US President Barack Obama to be the next Homeland Security secretary during a press conference in the Rose Garden of the White House on October 18, 2013 in Washington, DC. AFP PHOTO/Mandel NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
National Journal
Jordain Carney
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Jordain Carney
Dec. 16, 2013, 1:35 p.m.

The De­part­ment of Home­land Se­cur­ity has a new Sec­ret­ary Monday, after the Sen­ate voted 78 to 16 to con­firm Jeh John­son.

The vote on the former Pentagon law­yer marks the end of widely ex­pec­ted con­firm­a­tion, which was made al­most in­ev­it­able by Ma­jor­ity Lead­er Harry Re­id’s de­cision to go nuc­le­ar last month.

Twenty-three Re­pub­lic­ans voted for John­son’s nom­in­a­tion. 

Minor­ity Lead­er Mitch Mc­Con­nell, who voted against him, railed against Re­id’s de­cision on Tues­day morn­ing be­fore the Sen­ate took up a slate of nom­in­ees. The Ken­tucky Re­pub­lic­an called it a “grave mis­take” and tied it to what he be­lieves is a lar­ger nar­rat­ive of the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion and Demo­crats not play­ing by the rules.

“This vote isn’t about any one nom­in­ee”¦ It’s about an at­ti­tude on the left that says the ends jus­ti­fy the means,” he said, be­fore the Sen­ate voted on the first nom­in­a­tion.

John­son re­ceived bi­par­tis­an sup­port, though pos­sible holds by Re­pub­lic­an Sens. John Mc­Cain of Ari­zona, and Lind­sey Gra­ham of South Car­o­lina, at times threatened his path to con­firm­a­tion. Gra­ham’s hold wasn’t spe­cif­ic to John­son but against all nom­in­ees in an at­tempt to get sur­viv­ors of the Benghazi ter­ror­ist at­tack to testi­fy be­fore mem­bers of Con­gress.

Mc­Cain battled with John­son dur­ing his con­firm­a­tion hear­ing last month over a re­quest for in­form­a­tion on bor­der se­cur­ity. The Ari­zona Re­pub­lic­an told the As­so­ci­ated Press that the nom­in­ee “re­fused to tell me that he would give me the in­form­a­tion as to what is ne­ces­sary to have 90 per­cent ef­fect­ive con­trol of our bor­der.”

But John­son was passed out of the Sen­ate Home­land Se­cur­ity and Gov­ern­ment­al Af­fairs Com­mit­tee by a voice vote, with Mc­Cain and Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., be­ing ad­ded to the re­cord as no votes.

He re­ceived bi­par­tis­an praise dur­ing the com­mit­tee’s vote, with Sen. Tom Coburn, the com­mit­tee’s rank­ing mem­ber, not­ing that while he thinks the Home­land Se­cur­ity De­part­ment is dys­func­tion­al, he con­siders John­son an “open and hon­est broker.”

John­son is tak­ing over an agency with a wide ar­ray of at times dis­join­ted mis­sions that has had to deal with low mor­ale and holes in its lead­er­ship team.

He pre­vi­ously worked in the Pentagon help­ing de­vel­op some of coun­try’s top coun­terter­ror­ism policies. He is re­pla­cing Janet Na­pol­it­ano, who stepped down in Septem­ber to be­come the first fe­male pres­id­ent of the Uni­versity of Cali­for­nia. Rand Beers has stepped in as the act­ing sec­ret­ary since then.

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