The Latest: Hawley blocks quick confirmation of DHS nominee

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Homeland Security Secretary nominee Alejandro Mayorkas testifies during his confirmation hearing in the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2021, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (Bill Clark/Pool via AP)

WASHINGTON – The Latest on Senate confirmation hearings for President-elect Joe Biden’s nominees for his administration (all times local):

3:40 p.m.

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President-elect Joe Biden’s hopes of quick confirmation of his nominee to lead the Department of Homeland Security have been blocked by a Republican senator.

Sen. Josh Hawley said Tuesday that he would block a procedural move to bypass full committee consideration of the nomination of Alejandro Mayorkas to lead DHS.

The move means the Mayorkas confirmation must go to the full Senate and there’s little chance he can be confirmed as Biden takes office Wednesday.

Hawley said he made the move because Mayorkas, in his confirmation hearing, would not commit to spending the $1.4 billion appropriated to expand the border wall with Mexico. Biden said he would halt future construction and Mayorkas said he would have to determine how the law requires DHS to spend the money.

Hawley also said Mayorkas did not “adequately” explain how he would enforce border security.

The decision by the Missouri Republican comes as other senators urge a quick confirmation for a secretary of Homeland Security given threats that include the massive cyber attack on the U.S. government and the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol.

Hawley has drawn intense criticism since Jan. 6 from Democrats and fellow Republicans for cheering pro-Trump protesters gathering outside the building with a thumbs up and fist pump and for supporting baseless claims of election fraud.



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3:30 p.m.

President-elect Joe Biden’s nominee to be the country’s top diplomat is pledging to restore America’s standing in the world while building on some Trump administration foreign policies.

Secretary of State-designee Antony Blinken told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday that he believes the Trump administration generally took a proper stance toward China and the Middle East. But he stressed that the Trump administration’s implementation of those policies left much to be desired and ignored critical issues such as climate change.

In a relatively non-contentious confirmation hearing, Blinken said that if confirmed, he would work with Congress to strengthen and improve the Iran nuclear deal that Trump withdrew from in 2018. He said he would try to build on Arab-Israeli normalization agreements that Trump sealed in the final months of his presidency. And he said he would advocate a continued tough line on China, while seeking to bolster the U.S. position by improving relations with allies.

Blinken also said promotion of human rights and democracy would be an integral part of the Biden administration’s approach toward international relations and pledged the U.S. would host a summit of the world’s democratically elected leaders by the end of the year.


11:55 a.m.

President-elect Joe Biden’s nominee to run the Department of Homeland Security says the incoming administration hasn’t decided what it will do with the already completed sections of border wall built under President Donald Trump.

Previous administrations, both Democrat and Republicans, have built barriers and walls along the southwest border. But Trump made it a signature project to expand the wall and built about 450 miles of new section.

Alejandro Mayorkas was asked about it Tuesday at his Senate confirmation hearing. He said that Biden has committed to halting Trump’s wall project but that he would have to study the costs and benefits of tearing down already built sections.

He noted that when he served as DHS deputy secretary he was told by Border Patrol officials that what was needed is a combination of barriers, additional agents and technology and equipment. “What I heard is we need a diverse approach to border security,” he said.


11:05 a.m.

President-elect Joe Biden’s pick for national intelligence director says that the intelligence community under her watch would have a support role in assessing the threat coming from domestic extremists like the ones who stormed the U.S. Capitol this month.

Avril Haines said at her Senate confirmation hearing on Tuesday that the primary responsibility for U.S.-based threats belongs to the FBI and the Department Homeland Security. But she says she expects that intelligence agencies would be involved in those discussions, particularly if there are connections between Americans and foreign-based extremist groups.

Haines called the events of Jan. 6 “truly disturbing” and said it was “eerie” coming to the Senate and seeing the National Guard deployed around Washington.


10:45 a.m.

President-elect Joe Biden’s pick for national intelligence director says that perhaps no greater priority on the job right now is “building the trust and confidence necessary to protect the American people.”

Avril Haines is vowing at her Senate intelligence committee confirmation hearing Tuesday to speak “truth to power” even when that truth is inconvenient or difficult.

The comments signaled a course correction to the four years of the Trump administration, when President Donald Trump repeatedly attacked intelligence community assessments that he disagreed with — particularly about Russia.

Haines also says the American people deserve a “government worthy of their trust” and that she will work to promote transparency in the intelligence community.

10:40 a.m.

The Democratic vice chairman of the Senate intelligence committee is telling President-elect Joe Biden’s pick for national intelligence director that the intelligence community will have to “recover” from the experience of Donald Trump’s leadership.

Sen. Mark Warner says that during the four years of the Trump administration, intelligence community officials willing to speak the truth were “vilified, reassigned, fired or retaliated against.”

Warner told Avril Haines at her confirmation hearing on Tuesday that she will be expected to keep politics out of national security decision making. He says he expects to hear a strong statement of support for the professionalism of the intelligence community.


10:30 a.m.

One of President Donald Trump’s national intelligence directors is introducing President-elect Joe Biden’s nominee for the job at her confirmation hearing.

Dan Coats, a former Republican senator who held the post under Trump, is speaking Tuesday at Avril Haines’ confirmation hearing before the Senate intelligence community.

His appearance is designed to show that Haines, who served in the Obama administration, has bipartisan support. He says Haines is committed to bringing “nonpoliticized truth to power” and restoring trust in confidence in the intelligence community.

He calls Haines an “exceptional choice.”


10 a.m.

President-elect Joe Biden’s nominee to lead the Department of Homeland Security will address the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol at the start of his Senate confirmation hearing.

Alejandro Mayorkas says in prepared remarks released ahead of the Tuesday hearing that the Jan. 6 pro-Trump riot was “horrifying” and authorities still have much to learn about what happened that day and what led to the insurrection.

Mayorkas says that as secretary of Homeland Security he would do everything he can to ensure that “the tragic loss of life, the assault on law enforcement, the desecration of the building that stands as one of the three pillars of our democracy and the terror felt by you, your colleagues, staff, and everyone present, will not happen again.”

If confirmed, the former federal prosecutor and senior Homeland Security official under President Barack Obama would be the first Latino and first immigrant to lead the department. He would lead one of the largest agencies in government to enforce the nation’s immigration laws and run the immigration services agency as well as the components such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the civilian cybersecurity agency.


6:30 a.m.

President-elect Joe Biden’s nominee to be America’s top diplomat says he’s ready to confront challenges posed by China, Iran, North Korea and Russia.

Secretary of State-designate Antony Blinken also says he’s committed to rebuilding the State Department after four years of atrophy under the Trump administration.

Blinken is set to appear Tuesday before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

In testimony prepared for his appearance, Blinken says he sees a world of rising nationalism and receding democracy. He also says that mounting threats from authoritarian states are reshaping all aspects of human life, particularly in cyberspace.

Blinken says American global leadership still matters and without it rivals will either step in to fill the vacuum or there will be chaos. He says neither choice is palatable.

Blinken also promises to bring Congress in as a full foreign-policy partner, a subtle jab at President Donald Trump’s administration and its secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, who routinely ignored or bypassed lawmakers in policy-making.


6 a.m.

President-elect Joe Biden’s pick for national intelligence director is planning to tell Senate lawmakers that intelligence and national security issues will not be politicized under her watch.

Avril Haines faces a confirmation hearing Tuesday before the Senate intelligence committee.

Haines will also tell lawmakers that the Office of the Director of National Intelligence must not shy away from “speaking truth to power” even if inconvenient or difficult. That’s according to excerpts of her prepared remarks released ahead of the hearing.

Haines served in the Obama administration as deputy director of the CIA and deputy national security adviser.

If confirmed, Haines would be tasked with restoring stability to an intelligence community that has been repeatedly denigrated by President Donald Trump. She would also be the first woman to hold the position.

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