Senate Republicans demand more answers from DHS nominee

McClatchy Washington BureauNovember 19, 2013 

A group of Senate Republicans is pressing for more answers about immigration enforcement from the nominee tapped to lead the Department of Homeland Security before they decide whether he should be confirmed.

A six-page letter of detailed questions from the senators is one of the first signs of resistance against the popular nominee, Jeh Johnson, a former Defense Department attorney who has been picked to replace outgoing Secretary Janet Napolitano.

Johnson, who had a relatively smooth confirmation hearing Wednesday, has received the endorsements of the past three secretaries.

The six Republicans are all members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which has oversight over the Department of Homeland Security. They sent 30 questions on Judiciary letterhead. Many of the questions are broken into different parts.

A question about how Johnson would enforce federal immigration law includes 11 lettered subsections. One example: "Should an illegal immigrant convicted of multiple misdemeanors be eligible for immigration benefits, including legal status."

Our committee has primary responsibility over immigration matters, and we believe it necessary to know any nominee’s position on immigration policies before we can consent to the confirmation of a Secretary to head this very critical department,” wrote the six co-authors, who include Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, the ranking member of the Judiciary Committee.

Grassley is joined on the letter by Sens. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, Ted Cruz and John Cornyn of Texas, and Orrin Hatch and Mike Lee of Utah. All but Hatch voted against the Senate immigration bill this summer that would increase border security and provide an estimated 11 million here illegally a path to citizenship.

The two Republicans on the committee who didn’t sign the letter, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Jeff Flake of Arizona, are members of the so-called Gang of Eight who wrote the Senate immigration bill.

Three former Homeland Security secretaries have endorsed Johnson’s nomination, including Napolitano and Republicans Michael Chertoff and Tom Ridge.

In a letter to the Senate, the three said his, "experience and ability make him an eminently qualified nominee."

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