WASHINGTON – After heated debate, the Senate narrowly approved President Obama’s controversial pick for the No. 2 job at the Department of Homeland Security on Friday morning.
Alejandro Mayorkas will be the deputy Homeland Security secretary following a 54-41 vote. No Republicans voted "yes." Mayorkas will report to the new Homeland Security secretary Jeh Johnson, who was confirmed Tuesday.
Shortly after that vote, John Koskinen was confirmed as commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service and Brian Davis was slated for approval later Friday as a district judge in Florida.
The body also advanced the nomination of Janet Yellen to head the Federal Reserve, but a final vote was pushed to January in accordance with a late-night agreement reached Thursday with Republicans.
The confirmations cap an acrimonious week in the Senate that saw Democrats pushing forward a raft of candidates after changing Senate rules last month to prevent filibusters for most presidential nominees.
Mayorkas, who has been head of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services since 2009, is being investigated by the department's inspector general over allegations that he helped politically connected businesses secure visas for foreign investors. He denies doing anything wrong.
Republicans tried to stop the vote until the internal probe is complete. But Senate Democrats went ahead, saying that investigators have uncovered no wrongdoing after 18 months of examining the program.
Supporters said that Mayorkas, a former U.S. attorney for Southern California, has improved morale at USCIS and pulled off the equivalent of a bureaucratic miracle by quickly implementing a program last year that allows immigrants who were brought to the country illegally as children to apply for a work permit and remain in the country.
But senior Republicans objected to Mayorkas over concerns brought by whistleblowers that he may have intervened in visa decisions in favor of politically connected businesses.
"We are voting to install a nominee that could be seen as unfit to serve in the No. 2 position at DHS, an agency tasked with protecting our country from terrorists," Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) said in a speech on the Senate floor.