Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
October 7, 2015

The First Post-‘Nuclear’ Cabinet Nominee? (Updated)

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 4:08 p.m. | President Barack Obama could probably nominate anyone he wants to be the next Homeland Security secretary, assuming there are no ethical or legal issues.

That’s because Janet Napolitano’s successor at the Department of Homeland Security could be the first Cabinet choice to be nominated in a Senate without the risk of a filibuster — or maybe even a procedural hold, assuming Senate Democrats deploy the “nuclear option” to end the need for a 60-vote supermajority to overcome a filibuster of executive branch nominees next week.

There would be policy implications of a partisan choice, however. Some Republican supporters of the Senate-passed immigration overhaul are already cautioning the president to pick a successor who has the confidence of lawmakers in enhancing immigration enforcement.

“The Senate has done the right thing for our country by passing a comprehensive immigration law. However, that work will be worth nothing if the Administration — specifically the new Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security — fails to uphold their end of the bargain,” Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., said in a statement. “The new DHS Secretary must take bold steps immediately upon taking office to reassure the American people that this Administration will enforce any new comprehensive immigration reform plan that becomes law.”

Moreover, the news of Napolitano’s departure later this year to helm the University of California system comes as the House is working on a step-by-step approach to immigration legislation, and not long after an administration move to delay the employer mandate in the health care law.

“After the president’s decision to unilaterally delay the employer mandate in his health care law, there is a huge trust gap right now, and that could easily poison the well on immigration,” one senior GOP aide said. “How can we trust him to secure the border and enforce the law when he isn’t even following the law that’s named after him?”

“If Democrats actually do the nuclear option, it would reduce the confirmation process to one party rule. President Obama could install controversial nominees with a complicit Democrat majority and no real input from the opposition,” said John Ashbrook, a spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.

“The selection of her replacement could be the first test of a scaled back check on the president’s power,” he added.

Immigration “gang of eight” member Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y.,  has already contacted White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough to recommend a “law and order” official for the DHS job: New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly.

“As a former head of the Customs and Border patrol, he has top-level federal management experience. There is no doubt Ray Kelly would be a great DHS Secretary, and I have urged the White House to very seriously consider his candidacy,” Schumer said in a statement. “While it would be New York’s loss, Commissioner Kelly’s appointment as the head of DHS would be a great boon for the entire country.”

Schumer previously touted Kelly for the FBI director post, according to the New York Daily News.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said it was too early to talk about a nominee for the DHS post.

“I think it is far too premature on the day that Secretary Napolitano announced that she’s leaving in a month and a half to speculate about successors,” Carney said. “The president will be very deliberate in examining his options.”

To say Napolitano’s been no favorite of conservatives would be an understatement. At times, she became the person through which Republicans such as Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama expressed opposition to Obama administration immigration policies, including deferred action for undocumented young people.

“Secretary Napolitano’s tenure at the Department of Homeland Security was defined by a consistent disrespect for the rule of law,” Sessions said in a statement. “The most significant obstacle to immigration reform remains President Obama’s selective enforcement of the law. Any selection — interim or permanent — to replace Secretary Napolitano must disavow these aggressive non-enforcement directives or there is very little hope for successful immigration reform.”

Matt Fuller contributed to this report.

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  1. bittman

    July 13, 2013
    9:29 a.m.

    Payback could really be Hell! With the disaster that Obamacare is turning out to be, Reid could lose his job after the 2014 election. Of course, that depends upon the FEC, IRS, DOJ, many other Federal agencies, and the Administration’s media being unsuccessful in their efforts to preserve the Democrat’s leadership.

    • Charles Wolf

      July 16, 2013
      11:25 p.m.

      Reid could lose his job after the 2014 election.
      Ummm, baloney…his term runs till 2016.
      Reid will go only if he retires, dies or gets impeached.

      OTOH, the turtle’s term (Mcconnell) is up in 2014 & he is getting a pretty good challenge considering its KY.

      • bittman

        July 17, 2013
        9:40 a.m.

        Reid’s term as Senator ends in 2016; OTOH unless the Democrats retain its Majority, Reid will no longer hold his position there.

  2. Goldenah

    July 13, 2013
    11:36 a.m.

    Would be a great time for Congress to restructure Homeland Security and the entire apparatus out of existence.

  3. iconoclast

    July 13, 2013
    3:53 p.m.

    So Obama can appoint another marginal apparatchik without objection by the GOP?

    Ok, go for it. The worst thing that can happen to this administration is to get their way. The inevitable outcome of that will be more scandal, incompetence, graft, abuse of power, and cronyism. Which will come out despite the efforts of the mainstream media.

    And, as we all know, what goes around comes around. The next GOP administration will have the same privileges as the Obama administration. I wonder how much Democrats will enjoy that?

    • Minicapt

      July 13, 2013
      9:20 p.m.

      Not a problem, because if the Dems lose the Senate in Nov 2014, they will have six sitting weeks in which to reintroduce the filibuster, before the the handover in Jan 2017. Because the political circumstances will have changed and the filibuster is again vital for the survival of the Republic. Just ask Harry.


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