Carper Statement on Vote Against Wolf as DHS Undersecretary

WASHINGTON, D.C. –  Today, U.S. Senator Tom Carper (D-Del.), senior Democrat on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee (HSGAC), released the following statement after opposing the nomination of Chad Wolf to serve as Under Secretary for Strategy, Policy, and Plans at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Wolf has served in this role in an acting capacity since he was nominated for the job in February 2019, but has never been confirmed by the Senate. With the departure of Acting DHS Secretary Kevin McAleenan, 11 of the 18 top positions at DHS are vacant or filled by acting officials. The Trump Administration seeks to bypass the Constitutional role of the Senate—to provide advice and consent regarding cabinet officials—by confirming Mr. Wolf in his current position, then appointing him to serve as Acting Secretary of the entire Department. 

Senator Carper has been outspoken about the need for the highest positions at DHS, the third-largest federal agency, to be filled expeditiously, and the need for the President to nominate, and the Senate to vote on, a permanent Secretary of Homeland Security. 

“Earlier this year, in the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, I cast a vote in favor of Chad Wolf to serve as Under Secretary for Strategy, Policy and Plans at the Department of Homeland Security. I stand by that vote. I believed then, as I do now, that Mr. Wolf has the experience needed to fulfill that role at DHS.

“However, while the vote the Senate took today may have appeared in name to relate Mr. Wolf’s nomination for that very same position at DHS, in reality, it was far different. Just two weeks ago, the President announced—via Twitter—his intent to appoint Mr. Wolf to the position of Acting Secretary. Upon Mr. Wolf’s swearing-in, he will serve as the fifth individual to run the Department in less than three years. Of those, only two have been confirmed to that position by vote of the Senate.

“My vote against Mr. Wolf today is not about the nominee himself. Now that he has been confirmed, it is my hope that Mr. Wolf rises to the occasion and provides this Department with the leadership it so sorely needs—and I stand ready to work with him as he faces that challenge. Rather, my vote today is a vote against the President’s consistent failure to adhere to the process clearly outlined in the Constitution and attempts to ignore the Senate’s authority to consider and approve nominees, especially those at the cabinet level, and especially at DHS.

“In Article II of the Constitution, right there at the beginning, our founders set up a system in which the President would nominate individuals to the top posts in our government and senators, as representatives of the American people, would provide ‘advice and consent’ on those nominees. In that way, the President gets to choose his or her team, and the Senate, on behalf of their constituents, makes sure that those team members are sufficiently qualified. It is a fundamental part of the intricate system of checks and balances that our founders designed so that no one branch of our government would be all-powerful.

“Over the last three years, we have seen President Trump nominate extremely unqualified individuals to posts across the federal government. But, at DHS, an agency with a budget of over $50 billion, whose 240,000 men and women are charged with such critical functions as protecting our country from ever-evolving domestic and foreign threats, responding to national disasters, and securing our elections against foreign interference, the President has simply refused to put forth nominees at all. The Department has been without permanent, Senate-confirmed leadership for over seven months now. Today, 11 of the top 18 positions at the Department are filled by individuals serving in acting roles, or are vacant entirely.

“This is no way to run any agency, let alone one with as critical a mission as DHS. This constant turnover and continual lack of permanent leadership may be the way President Trump likes to do business, but it does not breed success. It compromises our national security. It renders even the most qualified, capable individuals ineffectual, and it leaves an agency of enormous size and consequence continually rudderless.

“At a time when this Department should be laser-focused on protecting the election set to take place in less than a year, countering the rise of domestic terrorism at home and abroad and responding to ever more frequent and powerful natural disasters, you need Senate-confirmed leadership and you need continuity in leadership. I remain incredibly disappointed with the kind of turmoil that we’re continuing to see at DHS, and I fear that today’s approval of Chad Wolf to serve in that role will act as implicit permission from Congress to ignore our role in the confirmation of qualified nominees, and embolden the President to continue choosing Acting Secretaries as his whims dictate, rather than on the basis of their qualifications for the role.

“I would urge the President: if you want Chad Wolf to run DHS, then formally nominate him to fill that position. Let him interview for that job. Let him come before the Senate and share his views. Let us vote on a nominee. And let the men and women of the Department have a permanent leader who has the authority to combat the very real threats we face. I would welcome that. But don’t simply try to bypass Congress and a confirmation process that has been upheld since the beginning of our republic.”