Senate Democrats will plow ahead Wednesday with a vote on President Obama’s nominee for the No. 2 job at the Department of Homeland Security, even though he is the subject of an ongoing inspector general’s investigation — an unprecedented move that has riled Republicans.
Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, the ranking Republican on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, says holding the vote is a disservice to Alejandro Mayorkas, the director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, and undermines the work of inspectors general.
It will “deny Mr. Mayorkas the opportunity to win a convincing, bipartisan vote on the basis of a ‘clean’ report of investigation,” Mr. Coburn wrote Monday in a letter to the committee’s chairman, Sen. Thomas R. Carper, Delaware Democrat.
“Scheduling this vote before the investigation is complete tells every inspector general their work is irrelevant,” his spokesman, John Hart, added, calling it “the worst possible signal this committee can send.”
Mr. Mayorkas and other senior officials at USCIS are being investigated over accusations they intervened on behalf of at least one U.S. company — which had ties to Virginia Gov.-elect Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat — seeking special entrepreneur visas for wealthy and politically connected Chinese investors.
According to an account from the inspector general’s staff, which leaked shortly before Mr. Mayorkas’ hearing in July, the investigation was sparked by a whistleblower complaint in September 2012.
Mr. Carper dismissed the concerns, saying investigators said at a bipartisan committee staff briefing that they had “not found any evidence of criminal wrongdoing by Director Mayorkas — or any other DHS employee — in the 15 months that the inquiry has been going on.”
He noted the investigation can no longer impede the needs of the department. The deputy secretary’s job is one of more than a dozen vacant top posts at the department, including the secretary’s position and that of the inspector general.
“We simply cannot afford to continue to leave [the Department of Homeland Security] rudderless any longer. Our nation’s security depends on having effective, proven leaders in place,” he said.
The Democrat-controlled panel is expected to approve Mr. Mayorkas and send his nomination to the full Senate for final passage.
Last month, the administration nominated a replacement for the inspector general. And the committee, with two Republicans voting against, sent the nomination of Jeh Johnson to be homeland security secretary to the Senate floor.