- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Chad Wolf was sworn in Wednesday as acting secretary at Homeland Security, hours after the Senate confirmed him to a lower position at the department.

He takes over for Kevin McAleenan, whose resignation as acting secretary is now finalized, and becomes the fifth chief of the department in three years.

Senators voted 54-41 to make him undersecretary at Homeland Security, but with Mr. McAleenan’s departure and President Trump’s previous announcement of intent to elevate Mr. Wolf, the vote was seen as a proxy for his ascension.

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Indeed, a department official confirmed Mr. Wolf was sworn in as the acting secretary in the afternoon.

By Wednesday night Ken Cuccinelli, who is acting director at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, had also been named deputy secretary, putting a key Trump ally near the top of the department’s leadership board.

Democrats were enraged at both moves, saying they were an attempt to avoid Congress’s role in confirming top-level officers.

Mr. Wolf in particular irked Democrats, who said he was tainted by actions surrounding last year’s zero tolerance border policy and Mr. Trump’s travel ban.

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer said Republicans are using a backdoor method to get Mr. Wolf into the secretary’s position, without actually having to vote for him for that post.

“It is shameful that the Trump administration and Senate Republicans are stooping to this unacceptable game of musical chairs to find people to fill critical cabinet posts,” the New York Democrat said.

Sen. Tom Carper, Delaware Democrat, backed Mr. Wolf in a committee vote earlier this year, saying he’s qualified for the undersecretary’s role. But he voted against Mr. Wolf on the floor Wednesday because he doesn’t think the pick is ready to run the whole department.

“This constant turnover and continual lack of permanent leadership may be the way President Trump likes to do business, but it does not breed success,” Mr. Carper said.

Just two Democrats — Sens. Kirsten Sinema of Arizona and Joe Manchin of West Virginia — jjoined Republicans to vote to confirm Mr. Wolf.

He takes over a department that, while facing massive challenges, is in better shape than it was six months ago, before Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen stepped down and Mr. McAleenan became acting chief.

Record levels of illegal immigration by families and children have been cut dramatically, thanks in large part to Mr. McAleenan’s deal-making with partner nations in Latin America, who have effectively stepped up to solve a flow of people U.S. policymakers have been unable to confront.

But Mr. Wolf still faces hurdles, particularly in the courts, where the department is fighting to revive or maintain Trump policies regarding the border wall and making immigrants prove they are self-sustaining.

The department also oversees the Secret Service, the Coast Guard, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and U.S. cybersecurity efforts — which could become increasingly important as the country barrels toward another election next year.

Mr. Wolf now headlines a long list of vacant jobs being held by “acting” officials — including all three of the department’s immigration agencies and the director of FEMA.

Rep. Bennie G. Thompson, the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said the department needs to have a chief who has been through full Senate vetting and a vote, so he or she can stand up to Mr. Trump’s advisors including Stephen Miller, a top aide on immigration matters.

“Since day one, the president has tried to run the department out of the White House with disastrous results,” Mr. Thompson said.

Mr. Wolf becomes the first undersecretary for policy and planning, though he has been an official in the department since the start of the Trump administration, and served as Ms. Nielsen’s chief of staff.

Democrats said while in that position he helped craft the zero tolerance policy that led to illegal immigrant parents being prosecuted for the crime of illegal entry — which meant their children were separated from them while they went to jail.

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