Senate Republicans plan to object to any efforts to quickly confirm Alejandro Mayorkas as secretary of Homeland Security, further delaying his confirmation as the department grapples with the Covid-19 pandemic, national security concerns and President Joe Biden’s ambitious immigration plans.
In confirming the GOP’s plans to filibuster, Republican Sen. John Cornyn of Texas told reporters Wednesday on Capitol Hill that “there’s a number of problems” with Mayorkas’ nomination.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has pushed to have Mayorkas confirmed quickly, but Cornyn and other Senate Republicans argue that Mayorkas hasn’t been properly vetted on immigration issues and are calling for an additional hearing into his nomination. The Senate has scheduled a procedural vote to break the filibuster at 1:45 p.m. ET Thursday.
After the Senate breaks the filibuster — which requires 51 votes — the final confirmation vote will be Monday evening.
The use of the filibuster — to stall nominations or legislation — has long been a favored tool of the minority party, something Schumer did often when trying to derail and delay the Republican agenda under then-President Donald Trump. In recent days, continued use of the filibuster on legislation became a central sticking point over a resolution that would allow the 50-50 Senate to officially organize, but the stall tactic is unlikely to be gutted further in this Congress because of resistance from some moderate Democrats.
The Senate Homeland Security Committee held an extensive hearing into Mayorkas’ qualifications to lead the department last week and voted Tuesday to move Mayorkas’ nomination forward.
Republican Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri attempted to block Mayorkas’ quick consideration after the hearing, arguing in a statement that Mayorkas had inadequately explained how he will secure the US southern border.
In a letter Tuesday, Cornyn led seven other GOP senators on the Senate Judiciary Committee, including Hawley, in demanding a hearing for Mayorkas before their panel.
They argued that Mayorkas spoke about “immigration priorities at length” during his January 19 hearing proving that immigration issues will be a “top focus” of his, and that the Senate Judiciary Committee has jurisdiction over immigration matters.
“All Members of the Committee should have the opportunity to hear from Mr. Mayorkas directly, and to publicly discuss with him his plans with respect to the Department’s immigration components and functions,” the Republican lawmakers wrote.
Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin, who is set to chair the Judiciary Committee, told CNN, “I don’t see why that’s necessary” and called the request for a hearing “totally political.”
While several of Biden’s nominees have been confirmed and have moved at a slower pace than some of his predecessors’ Cabinet picks, Republicans had not yet threatened to filibuster a nominee until Wednesday. Mayorkas is now the first.
The department has been without a Senate-confirmed leader since Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen was ousted in early 2019.
This story and headline have been updated with additional developments Wednesday.