Josh Hawley blocks Biden cabinet appointment

Missouri senator faces calls for his resignation after amplifying false claims of electoral fraud both before and after Capitol siege

Graeme Massie
@graemekmassie
Tuesday 19 January 2021 22:24 GMT
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Josh Hawley has blocked the quick confirmation of Joe Biden’s pick to lead the Department of Homeland Security.

The Missouri senator announced that he would hold up the nomination of Alejandro Mayorkas just hours before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs was set to complete its hearing with the nominee.

“Mr Mayorkas has not adequately explained how he will enforce federal law and secure the southern border given President-elect Biden’s promise to roll back major enforcement and security measures,” Mr Hawley said in a statement.

The move by Mr Hawley, who was widely condemned for objecting to the certification of Mr Biden’s election win both before and after a mob of Trump supporters assaulted the Capitol, came as the Senate began a hectic schedule of hearings for cabinet nominees.

Three nominees, Mr Mayorkas, Janet Yellen for treasury secretary, and Director of National Intelligence nominee Avril Haines all had hearings on Tuesday morning.

The refusal of Republicans to accept Mr Biden’s defeat of Donald Trump and the Georgia runoff election delayed the hearings, which normally see senior cabinet nominees in place on the first day of a new administration.

Ms Yellen told the Senate Finance Committee she would pressure Congress to "act big" to help struggling Americans and prevent a "longer, more painful recession now."

"The damage has been sweeping and as the president-elect said last Thursday, our response must be too," she said about Mr Biden’s $1.9 trillion Covid rescue plan.

During his hearing, Mr Mayorkas, who would be the first Latino to lead the DHS, said that his agency would focus on right-wing extremists and the threat of white supremacists.

"The threat of domestic extremism is one of the greatest challenges DHS confronts," he said.

But following Mr Hawley’s action 60 senators, including 10 Republicans, will now need to vote to move Mr Mayorkas’s nomination forward.

He previously served as the deputy secretary of DHS under the Obama administration and did not get any Republican votes when he was confirmed in 2013.

Hearings for two other nominees, Lloyd Austin to be secretary of defence and Antony Blinken to be secretary of state, were expected on Tuesday afternoon.

The secretary of defence has been confirmed on the first day of hearings every time since 1993, as a show of national strength.

The retired three star general will need a special waiver as he was a uniformed officer within the last seven years.

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