By Kenric Ward | Watchdog.org
WASHINGTON, D.C. — After nuking the Senate’s filibuster rules, Democrats are ready to push through the nomination of a controversial immigration director as deputy secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.
Republicans pushed back on Wednesday, but it wasn’t enough.
Alejandro Mayorkas — under ongoing investigation by DHS for his handling of the EB-5 visa-investor program and meetings he held with GreenTech Automotive Chairman Terry McAuliffe — was approved by all nine Democrats on the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs. The seven Republican members voted “present.”
The nomination will go to the Senate floor for additional, but truncated, debate and confirmation
Republicans boycotted Mayorkas’ initial committee hearing in July, saying they wanted to see the DHS Inspector General’s findings before proceeding.
Among the accusations swirling around Mayorkas, director of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, are his personal contacts involving GreenTech, an electric-car startup co-founded by McAuliffe.
Watchdog.org reported that McAuliffe, now governor-elect of Virginia, was among the company officials who met and pleaded repeatedly with Mayorkas for approval of investor applications
In at least one case, officials from GTA’s funding arm, Gulf Coast Funds Management, pressed Mayorkas’ agency to grant the visa application of a foreign investor with ties to a Chinese company on a U.S. spy list.
Emails recently obtained by Watchdog through the Freedom of Information Act show USCIS under internal and external pressure to approve Gulf Coast’s applicants, as well as agency questions about GreenTech’s business plan.
While the investigation of Mayorkas is still under wraps, Senate Democrats launched the so-called “nuclear option” that knocked out the chamber’s filibuster rule. The move effectively silences GOP objections and allows Obama administration nominees to be confirmed by a simple majority vote.
Previously, Republicans could freeze judicial and administrative nominations by staging filibusters that required 60 votes to halt. Democrats hold 55 of 100 Senate seats.
With the bar lowered for final confirmation, Homeland Security Committee Chairman Tom Carper, D-Del., scheduled Wednesday’s vote to advance Mayorkas’ nomination.
Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., the panel’s ranking Republican, called the vote “without precedent” and a “disservice to the American people.”
“Senators (Barack) Obama and (Joe) Biden held up previous nominees under investigation. If we confirm Mr. Mayorkas under a cloud, we haven’t helped him, we haven’t helped DHS … with a less-than-informed vote.”
Noting that under the new filibuster rules, “it’s possible to deliver this nomination without a single Republican vote,” Coburn said he sees “validity in allegations over conflicts of interest, misuse of position, mismanagement and the appearance of impropriety” by Mayorkas.
Mayorkas did not appear at the hearing. DHS spokesman Peter Boogaard did not respond to inquiries, and USCIS spokesman Chris Bentley declined comment.
“The real story will be whether the GOP can stall (Mayorkas’) nomination on the Senate floor, despite the new filibuster rules,” said David North, a policy expert at the enforcement-oriented Center for Immigration Studies. “I bet they can stall it, if not block it.”
Ira Mehlman, spokesman for the Federation for American Immigration Reform, isn’t so sure.
“I haven’t seen any evidence to suggest that all Democrats – and a few Republicans — won’t vote to confirm,” he said.
Mehlman called USCIS under Mayorkas a “rubber-stamping operation that will bend and stretch any rules to get people into the country.”
“He is a loyal soldier who has facilitated a policy of non-enforcement at an agency where the mission is to ‘get to yes’” on EB-5 applications, Mehlman said.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., tentatively scheduled a floor vote this week for confirmation of former Pentagon lawyer Jeh Johnson as DHS secretary.
Kenric Ward is chief of Watchdog’s Virginia Bureau. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (571) 319-9824. @Kenricward
(This article was updated at 11:33 a.m.)
- VA: As he runs for governor, McAuliffe wheels and deals electric cars in Mississippi
- VA: Media echo Watchdog exclusive on McAuliffe’s electric car maneuvers
- No news here: PolitFact brands Terry McAuliffe’s electric-car claim ‘false’
- Experts question source of McAuliffe car-company funding
- Terry McAuliffe on business ventures: ‘Some work, some don’t’
- How McAuliffe’s car company failed the Virginia test, landed in Mississippi
- Virginia official wants probe of McAuliffe company ‘visa-for-sale’ program
- McAuliffe car company sues Watchdog in libel claim
- Barack Obama’s GreenTech connection: Rick Wade
- Silence, secrecy, cops follow GreenTech’s China deal
- McAuliffe hones China’s crony-capitalism model in U.S.
- Promises keep Tunica County afloat
- McAuliffe company’s China hook-up: Will it work?
- McAuliffe car lags in Domino’s delivery
- McAuliffe car co. parent in off-shore tax shelter
- Lawmaker gives feds one more week for EB-5 answers
- Bolling: McAuliffe’s Mississippi package ‘attractive’
- Inside, execs knew McAuliffe plan had ‘substantial risk’
- Union darling McAuliffe and his non-union car company
- Did Clinton aid the birth of ‘McAuliffe’ car company?
- McAuliffe feels heat over GreenTech resignation
- TV report: One year later, ‘party is over’ at GreenTech
- Months after he said he left company, McAuliffe kept talking GreenTech
- Clinton connection: More money for McAuliffe
- Terry McAuliffe used loophole to avoid key SEC oversight of his car company
- VA officials: McAuliffe green car more politics than biz
- McAuliffe car company announces it’s ready to roll — again
- Before Watchdog, McAuliffe blamed federal officials for money trouble
- McAuliffe gets cash from GreenTech exec, board members
- Watchdog report on McAuliffe spurs FOI request to Homeland Security
- McAuliffe leaves GreenTech questions hanging at debate
- Totally wired: McAuliffe went to Napolitano to expedite company funding
- McAuliffe bragged about GreenTech’s cash position while begging feds for faster processing of ‘cash for visas’
- Investigation targets Homeland official’s relationship to McAuliffe company
- Even before news of federal probe, McAuliffe ducked GreenTech questions
- McAuliffe company pressed Homeland official on 81 investor visas
- Rodham company sought visa for controversial Chinese exec
- Immigration official says he met with McAuliffe to discuss visas for foreign investors
- Whiners: Mayorkas says Gulf Coast ‘continues to complain’
- VIDEO: Ex-GreenTech employee says little happened at Horn Lake plant
- Online ad to Terry McAuliffe: Drop your lawsuit
- National security on ‘hold’: Lawmakers press McAuliffe for answers
- Citizens United documentary film delves into McAuliffe, GreenTech
- VIDEO: Terry McAuliffe’s 15 million-square-foot car plant … in China
- Feds call McAuliffe car company’s use of investment program ‘possible fraud’
- GreenTech courted Obama’s Solyndra aide
- GOP legislators call for McAuliffe to answer GreenTech questions
- McAuliffe ‘desperate’ over documentary, Citizens United says
- GreenTech weighed Fisker-style federal loan
- Group tells Terry: Follow ‘McAuliffe Standard’ on disclosure
- Car and Driver races into GreenTech controversy
- Congressman: McAuliffe owes Virginians explanation about White House meeting
- Feds loosen oversight as McAuliffe car company makes mysterious management change
- GreenTech execs use Times and ABC to throw McAuliffe under the (non-electric) bus
- Aide in union contribution swap hosts California fund-raiser for McAuliffe
- Despite denials, docs show McAuliffe company asked feds to fast-track visa for investor tied to spy list
- Former Democrat Party director was on GreenTech payroll
- More bad news for McAuliffe car company as GreenTech China venture stalls
- Clinton Foundation posts deficits on McAuliffe’s watch
- VIDEO: GreenTech record dogs McAuliffe at energy forum
- Auto industry expert labels McAuliffe electric car ‘preposterous’
- Democratic leaders have their own Bain pain in Mideast private equity deal
- Hillary PAC adviser served as GreenTech spokeswoman
- New emails add evidence McAuliffe pressed U.S. officials to approve GreenTech funding
- After endorsement, Post shrinks facts to cover Terry McAuliffe
- Ties that bind: Following the McAuliffe-Clinton money trail
- McAuliffe tilts at windmills; Chinese venture goes bust
- Federal investigations cast shadow over McAuliffe on Election Day
- DHS inspector over GreenTech-McAuliffe case is under investigation
- McAuliffe names former GreenTech employee secretary of commonwealth
- McAuliffe lawyers, accountants sort GreenTech stock amid federal investigations
- Nuking filibusters, Dems clear way for Mayorkas at Homeland Security