- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 15, 2009

Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano sailed through her confirmation hearing Thursday, seeking to be the first woman to lead the fledgling Homeland Security Department.

Sen. Joseph Lieberman, Connecticut independent and chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, said he expects the panel will pass her nomination on to the full Senate for a vote before the end of the week.

“There is a sense of urgency in this committee as to how important it is to get you confirmed as soon as president-elect Obama takes the oath of office,” Mr. Lieberman said.

“It’s as important as seating the secretary of defense for the security of our country,” Mr. Lieberman said.

Miss Napolitano tackled a wide range of questions on how she could further integrate the six-year-old department that encompasses 22 agencies and more than 200,000 employees.

Questions focused on her background on border protection, disaster response and counter-intelligence.

“As governor of Arizona for the past six years, I have lived at the nexus of a key issue that faces this agency and this nation: that of immigration. I have walked, flown over, and ridden horseback along our southwest border. I appreciate its vastness, as well as the grave consequences of our broken system,” Miss Napolitano said.

However, Sen. Claire McCaskill, Missouri Democrat, questioned Miss Napolitano sharply on immigration enforcement beyond the borders, and whether she would crack down on employers who hire illegal immigrants.

The Bush administration “purposefully looked the other way in terms of employers,” said Mrs. McCaskill, who added that the administration has only fined 22 businesses in the last two years for hiring illegal workers.

“We have to enforce the rule of law at the border,” Miss Napolitano said. “But we also have to deal with what is drawing people across the border.”

Stop the demand for illegal workers by prosecuting employees, and the supply will dwindle, she said.

“One of the first things I would do is begin collaboration with the Justice Department, and hopefully the U.S. Attorney’s office, so we can start moving prosecution cases through the system.”

Miss Napolitano was introduced to the panel by Arizona’s Republican Senators, John McCain and Jon Kyl.

“She has a no-nonsense attitude, remarkable stamina, and unlimited energy,” Mr. McCain said. “Arizona’s loss is the nation’s gain.”

“She has a wealth of experience as governor of a border state,” added Mr. Kyl.

While Senators on both sides of the aisle did not question her experience on immigration on the southern borders, some, including Sen. Susan Collins, Maine Republican and ranking committee member, encouraged the nominee to learn more about issues affecting the northern border, including the need for more border agents.

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