McCain Withdraws Support for DHS Nominee Over Border Security

WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 16: U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) speaks to members of the media after a meeting with the Senate Republicans at the U.S. Capitol October 16, 2013 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. Senate Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) and Minority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) announced that they have reached to an agreement to raise the debt ceiling and bring the government shutdown to an end.  
National Journal
Stacy Kaper
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Stacy Kaper
Nov. 13, 2013, 12:02 p.m.

Sen. John Mc­Cain switched gears sud­denly Wed­nes­day, with­draw­ing his sup­port for Jeh John­son’s con­firm­a­tion for sec­ret­ary of the Home­land Se­cur­ity De­part­ment over a flap about stalled im­mig­ra­tion re­form.

At a Sen­ate Home­land Se­cur­ity Com­mit­tee hear­ing on John­son’s con­firm­a­tion, Mc­Cain, R-Ar­iz., star­ted out re­it­er­at­ing pos­it­ive com­ments he has made about John­son, say­ing, “I’ve known you a num­ber of years, and I’m very pleased you will be tak­ing on these new re­spons­ib­il­it­ies. I view you as an out­stand­ing pub­lic ser­vant. I’m con­fid­ent that your con­firm­a­tion pro­cess will be very smooth.”

But that happy talk dis­ap­peared ab­ruptly when John­son said he could not prom­ise to give Mc­Cain in­form­a­tion from DHS about what it would take to achieve 90 per­cent ef­fect­ive con­trol of the U.S. bor­der. The sen­at­or then did an ab­rupt about-face, say­ing John­son’s de­mur­ral would cost his sup­port for the DHS nom­in­a­tion.

“As we work “¦, the eight of us, to com­plete this com­pre­hens­ive im­mig­ra­tion [re­form], which is stalled, as you know, in the House, … one ma­jor reas­on why it’s stalled is be­cause [of] a lack of con­fid­ence in bor­der se­cur­ity,” Mc­Cain said. “I want to know if you will give this com­mit­tee the ex­act met­rics that are needed sec­tor-by-sec­tor so that we can at­tain 90 per­cent ef­fect­ive­ness on the bor­der.”

Mc­Cain said that Con­gress has re­spons­ib­il­it­ies to se­cure the bor­der, and un­less DHS helps it fig­ure out how, it can­not do its job.

“We have our re­spons­ib­il­it­ies here”¦. So as much as I ad­mire and ap­pre­ci­ate you, un­less you can tell me that, you will give the in­form­a­tion that this com­mit­tee has the right to have, I can­not sup­port your nom­in­a­tion,” Mc­Cain said.

When John­son said he wanted to be help­ful but couldn’t make a prom­ise, Mc­Cain called that re­sponse un­ac­cept­able.

“Let the re­cord show you will not give a yes or no an­swer. There­fore I will not sup­port your nom­in­a­tion un­til I get a yes an­swer,” he said.

John­son at­temp­ted to show he was try­ing.

“Be­fore I com­mit un­equi­voc­ally to your ques­tion — and part of me very much wants to do that — I think I need to talk to people at DHS.”

In an in­ter­view with Na­tion­al Journ­al Daily after the hear­ing, Mc­Cain said he did not be­lieve John­son would provide the in­form­a­tion be­cause the White House would not al­low it.

“The White House, we are told, … that when we were put­ting to­geth­er com­pre­hens­ive im­mig­ra­tion re­form that the White House told Home­land Se­cur­ity not to give us that in­form­a­tion,” he said.

“I will not ap­prove of his con­firm­a­tion, be­cause it is clearly in­form­a­tion the Con­gress needs to make its de­cisions,” he ad­ded. “I’m not en­cour­aging any­body. I act by my­self on all of these things.”

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., told NJ Daily that he was un­sat­is­fied with John­son’s an­swers about Amer­ic­ans’ pri­vacy rights re­gard­ing do­mest­ic drones and said he was un­de­cided on wheth­er he would back John­son’s con­firm­a­tion.

Still, law­makers and ana­lysts mon­it­or­ing John­son’s con­firm­a­tion over­whelm­ingly ex­pect to see the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s former drone law­yer, who is cred­ited with pav­ing the way for the re­peal of the mil­it­ary’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, con­firmed.

“When you are con­firmed — I’m not go­ing to say if — be­cause you are go­ing to be con­firmed,” said Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., the rank­ing mem­ber on the Home­land Se­cur­ity Com­mit­tee, dur­ing the hear­ing.

“I per­son­ally want to thank you for step­ping for­ward. I think it is the most dif­fi­cult po­s­i­tion of all of the Cab­in­et sec­ret­ar­ies.”¦ It is clear to me that you are an hon­or­able man, “¦ which is ex­actly what we want.”

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