Senate Homeland Security Committee Approves Carper Amendment to Increase Transparency, Accountability at DHS

Carper amendment would require DHS Secretary to notify Congress of changes to Departmental orders of succession within three days


WASHINGTON, DC – Today, U.S. Senator Tom Carper (D-Del.), a senior member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee (HSGAC), applauded the Committee’s approval of his amendment that would increase transparency and accountability at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) by requiring that the Secretary notify Congress of changes to the Department’s order of succession within three days. In 2019, a number of changes were made to orders of succession within the top ranks of the Department, some without timely notification to Congress. As a result of these changes and the President’s refusal to send qualified nominees to the Senate for an up-or-down vote, many top positions at the Department are currently vacant, or occupied by acting officials not vetted by Congress or accountable to the American people. 

Senator Carper has worked for years to ensure that the DHS has qualified, Senate-confirmed leadership in place. This amendment would build on that work by requiring that Congress receives timely, written notification from the Department regarding changes to its leadership. 

“The system of checks and balances on which our democracy was founded is not optional,” said Senator Carper. “I know that President Trump may prefer constant turnover and continual lack of permanent leadership, but it is not what our Constitution requires, and it certainly does not breed success. This approach compromises our national security. It hides important information from the American people. And it tries to bypass a co-equal branch of government and a confirmation process that has been upheld since the beginning of our republic.

“Again and again, President Trump has used the Department of Homeland Security to carry out an agenda that subverts the wishes of the vast majority of the American people. Especially now, in light of what we are seeing in Portland at the direction of unconfirmed and acting officials at the Department of Homeland Security, it is critical that this committee has timely information regarding who is leading the Department and who is making such consequential decisions.”

The Appointments Clause of the Constitution sets up a system of checks and balances in which the President nominates qualified individuals to lead Cabinet agencies, and the Senate provides advice and consent on those nominees. The Federal Vacancies Reform Act (FVRA) builds on this constitutional check on executive authority by requiring that Congress be notified in the event of vacancies in leadership positions within departments, and by imposing strict time limitations on acting officials. The Trump Administration has repeatedly skirted those legal requirements by modifying Departmental orders of succession, and by declining to send qualified nominees to the Senate for vetting and confirmatio to key leadership positions within the Department.