A Senate panel recommended confirmation Tuesday of Alejandro Mayorkas to become secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, where he would be the first immigrant and the first Latino to lead the department.
The Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee voted 7-4 to recommend his confirmation by the whole Senate.
President Joe Biden had asked for the Senate to confirm Mayorkas and three other top posts quickly. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin was confirmed last week, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen was confirmed Monday, and Secretary of State nominee Antony Blinken has a confirmation vote scheduled Tuesday.
Mayorkas has faced the most contentious confirmation hearing of Biden’s Cabinet so far. Republicans posed pointed questions about Biden’s proposals to create a path to citizenship for an estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants and to suspend construction of the wall along the southern border with Mexico.
Republicans also questioned him about an inspector general’s report that found an appearance of favoritism in how he handled visas associated with business investments during a previous stint with the Democrat. But Mayorkas said he was trying to fix problems in a complicated bureaucracy, and Democrats called the report an attempt to smear him.
The top Republican on the committee, Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisc., said Tuesday he would not support Mayorkas’ nomination, citing “serious issues” in his background like the inspector general report, but Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, who also serves on the panel, said Mayorkas had acknowledged his previous errors and supported his nomination heading to a full Senate vote.
Mayorkas has previously been deputy secretary of the department and headed its citizenship agency. He arrived with his parents from Cuba as refugees from Fidel Castro’s regime in 1960.
— Bart Jansen and Nicholas Wu
Biden to outline racial equity agenda
After focusing his first few days on the coronavirus pandemic, President Joe Biden is turning the spotlight on another top priority: racial inequality.
Biden plans to outline on Tuesday has agenda for fighting racial inequality, one of the four “converging crises” he has said is facing the nation.
“The dream of justice for all will be deferred no longer,” Biden said in his inauguration speech.
Officials have said that addressing inequality will be a focus across all issues. For example, Biden has emphasized the need to help minority communities hit harder by the health and economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic.
But the administration is also putting a standalone emphasis on the initiative.
Susan Rice, the head of Biden’s Domestic Policy Council, is expected to talk about the efforts at Tuesday’s White House press briefing.
On Monday, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said that the administration is speeding up a move stalled under President Donald Trump to put abolitionist hero Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill.
Psaki said it’s important the nation’s currency “reflect the history and diversity of our country.”
Also on Monday, Vice President Kamala Harris administered the oath of office to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.
“The first Secretary of Defense in history to be sworn in by an African American @VP…is an African American Secretary of Defense,” tweeted Ron Klain, Biden’s chief of staff.
– Maureen Groppe
Senate to take oath for second Trump impeachment trial
Senators on Tuesday will be sworn in as jurors in the impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump, who is charged with inciting the insurrection at the Capitol on Jan. 6 that left five dead.
The formal oath-taking comes after House prosecutors walked the article of impeachment Monday across the Capitol, which some have called the scene of the crime.
Trump has said his rally speech near the White House questioning the results of the 2020 election was “appropriate.” But Democrats contend he exhorted a violent mob to lay siege to the Capitol, which interrupted the House and Senate while counting Electoral College votes.
House prosecutors, who are called managers, will present their written arguments to the Senate by Feb. 2. Trump’s defense team will then present written arguments in the case to the Senate by Feb. 8. Oral arguments begin the next day.
Vice President Harris to get second dose of COVID vaccine Tuesday
Vice President Kamala Harris will receive her second dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine on Tuesday evening, according to her office.
Harris received her first dose in December before live television cameras as part of a concerted effort to convince the public the inoculations are safe.
Harris and her husband, Doug Emhoff, will receive the second dose in front of the news media at the National Institutes of Health.
President Joe Biden received his second dose of the coronavirus vaccine on Jan. 11.
Biden’s and Harris’ vaccinations were staggered at the recommendation of medical and national security experts.
Secretary of State nomination moving forward
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee greenlighted Antony Blinken’s nomination to be secretary of State in a bipartisan vote on Monday. The 15-to-3 vote sends Blinken’s nomination to the full Senate, which could take up his confirmation as early as Tuesday.
Also on Tuesday, the Senate Commerce Committee will hold a confirmation hearing for Gina Marie Raimondo, Biden’s nominee to head the Commerce Department.