Homeland Security nominee Johnson ranks agency's core mission as 3rd priority
WASHINGTON — President Obama's choice to run the Department of Homeland Security placed the agency's core mission — counterterrorism — as his third priority during a confirmation hearing on Wednesday and took some criticism for submitting written answers to Congress that cribbed responses from several other Obama administration nominees.
The two-hour hearing for Jeh Johnson, the Pentagon's former top lawyer, was largely cordial. Most senators questioning him suggested he was likely to win confirmation easily and would become the fourth Homeland Security secretary.
But following the hearing, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said he plans to place a hold on his nomination, joining another senior Republican senator who has made the same pledge.
In answers to a committee prehearing questionnaire, Johnson said his top three priorities were filling vacancies at the department, addressing low morale and terrorism — priorities which say less about the terror threat to the U.S. and more about what's happened to the sprawling bureaucracy formed since the 9/11 attacks.
Ten years after the department was formed, the mere challenge of running the agency has overtaken countering terrorism. And Congress appears to be OK with that, as senators on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee did not raise any issue with Johnson's priority list.
Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn, however, the leading Republican on the committee, said he was concerned that Johnson's written answers to customary prehearing questions used the same language in 23 instances as several other Obama administration nominees.
Johnson's answer to one question was identical to the answer another Homeland Security nominee, Suzanne Spaulding, provided senators this year.
“I will continue to engage them in strengthening our public-private partnership by participating in trusted communities to enhance collaboration and build shared threat knowledge,” both Johnson and Spaulding wrote in their answers to questions about cybersecurity.
“They're not your answers,” Coburn said to Johnson. “The point is to get your thoughts.”
Coburn said he would not consider the questionnaire complete until the committee receives new answers to the questions. Coburn added that he expects Johnson's nomination to win Senate approval.
Johnson, a multimillionaire attorney who was largely unknown in homeland security circles before his nomination, was greeted in the hearing room by a small group of protesters decrying his role as a former top Defense Department lawyer who authorized U.S. drone strikes abroad.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Justices consider social media, free speech
- Oregon police dog fired from job
- Some in Congress turn down retirement pension, but many cash in
- With no indictment, chaos fills Ferguson streets
- McCarthy-era felon: Lies doomed me
- Tough Texas gets prison results by going softer on crime
- Brown family blasts prosecutor; Wilson speaks
- Kahlo’s workplace to be reimagined in New York Botanical Garden
- Immigrants warned of increase in scams
- Study touts benefits of full-day preschool
- Ferguson angles to avoid fate of riot-torn cities