Last Wednesday, the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs held a hearing on the nomination of Jeh Johnson to become the next Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).  The hearing was largely genial, with most senators stating that they expected him to win confirmation easily.

That is until Gang of Eight Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) provided the fireworks of the day when he pressed Johnson over DHS’s troubling inability to provide border security metrics. “When we were trying to develop [S. 744], we went time after time to the Department of Homeland Security to get what was needed to get the border secure… We never got that from the Department of Homeland Security—never.  We had to go directly to the Border Patrol.”  He then asked, “Can you tell this committee that you will not repeat what happened to us and the frustration that we experienced? And I want to know what—from you, what is required for us to have 90 percent effective control of the border. Can you assure this committee of that?”

Johnson responded by saying “I will commit to working with you…” whereupon McCain answered “No. I’m not asking you to work [] with me.”  Johnson twice tried the formulation, “I’m inclined to give you what you need, sir,” but McCain said “I’m not asking for your inclination, I’m asking for a yes or no answer.”  Johnson told him that though he “very much wanted” to commit unequivocally to the question, he needed to speak with others at DHS to better understand the issue. Finally, he promised his cooperation, which McCain rejected. “I’m not asking for cooperation. I’m asking for information.”

Based on his anger at DHS’s problems in carrying out its mission to secure our borders, one would hardly recognize the amnesty proponent who gave DHS’s ability to secure the border a vote of considerable confidence through his enthusiastic development and backing of the Senate’s amnesty bill, which gives the Secretary of DHS even more discretionary authority than current law provides. Indeed, Senator McCain also expressed frustration over how the last Secretary of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, had frequently stated “the border is more secure than ever,” telling Johnson, “So for years, the secretary of homeland security said, well, apprehensions are up so — the border’s more secure because there was reduction in apprehensions. Now the apprehensions are up. And so here we are, faced with a situation where the border is still not secure.”

After the hearing, McCain told reporters “I have a hold on his nomination.  He refused to tell me that he would give me the information necessary as to what is necessary to have 90 percent effective control of our border.” (Politico, Nov. 13, 2013) Fellow Gang of Eight Senator Lindsey Graham has also vowed to block Jeh Johnson’s nomination as he has vowed to block all of Obama’s nominees until the administration makes the survivors of last year’s terrorist attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi available to Congress for questioning.  (Washington Post, Nov. 10, 2013).