The Budgetby Senator Thomas R. Carper
Posted on 2013-12-18
CARPER. Mr. President, I wish to speak tonight on two subjects.
The first is the budget resolution, the bipartisan, bicameral budget
resolution conference report we approved today. This is the first time
in a number of years we have actually been able to debate and find some
consensus on a bipartisan blueprint for spending for the balance of
this fiscal year. I commend Senator Murray and Congressman Ryan for
their work and for their leadership and their willingness to find the
My wife and I celebrate our 28th anniversary in about 2 weeks. Actually, it is a few minutes after midnight on New Year's Day. One of the things I love to do when I talk to people who have been married a lot longer than we have is to ask them the secret for being married a long time. I have heard all kinds of answers--hilarious answers, some very poignant answers. The best answer I ever heard is the answer of the two Cs. The first time someone said that to me I said: What are they? They said: Communicate and compromise. Communicate and compromise. As it turns out, that is not just the secret for a long marriage between two people, but it is also the secret for a vibrant democracy. If we are to continue to thrive as a nation and to meet our responsibilities, it will be by doing what our leaders on the Budget Committees have done; that is, communicated at great length with one another, developed a sense of trust with one another, an understanding of the other's views, and being willing to compromise and find their way to the middle.
Everyone here could fault some aspect of the agreement that was struck. I can, and I know others can. But I wish to commend them and thank them for the effort that went into getting this one.
The Presiding Officer has heard me say once or twice in the last year or so that there are three key ingredients to making real progress, major progress, on deficit reduction, and one of those is entitlement reform which saves the programs for future generations, saves money, and does not savage old people or poor people. The second is tax reform, which helps us lower some of the corporate rates a bit as well as generates revenues for deficit reduction. The third element is the notion of looking at everything we do in Federal Government--everything we do--and answer this question: How can we get a better result for less money or the same amount of money? As we approach the next budget resolution next spring and the next opportunity to revisit these issues of spending, including domestic spending, defense spending, entitlement spending, and revenues, my hope is that we will be able to make even greater progress by focusing also on those three critical elements. So that is one of the things I wanted to speak about.
Mayorkas Nomination The other issue I wish to speak about actually is a person; that is, a fellow named Alejandro Mayorkas. He has been nominated by the President to serve as the Deputy Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. He was nominated some 8 months ago.
As the Presiding Officer may recall, I have the privilege of chairing the committee of jurisdiction over Homeland Security, the Committee on Homeland and Government Affairs, and we are responsible for working with the administration. We are also responsible, as are a lot of other folks in this country and outside of it, to help protect our Nation's security both at home and abroad. At the same time we strive on our committee to make sure Federal agencies work better, work smarter, and more efficiently with the resources we entrust to them. We are an oversight committee.
During my years in public service, I have learned that the most important ingredient in enabling organizations to work well is leadership. That is the case both in government and in the private sector, in organizations large and small. Part of our shared responsibility is ensuring that we have effective leaders in place across our Federal Government. It is every Senator's constitutional role to provide advice and consent on the President's nominees in a thorough and timely manner as part of the Senate's confirmation process. While we in Congress hope to soon wrap up our 2013 session, it is going to be with far less to show than many of us would have liked, but at least the Senate will have had an opportunity to fill some key leadership positions across the Federal Government and to confirm a number of judges in many courts where they need a judge or two.
One of the roles that needs to be filled, again, is that of Deputy Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. This Department, as we know, plays a critical role in protecting our Nation and its citizens from harm. Whether the threat relates to terrorism from abroad, to homegrown extremists, to cyber attacks or natural disaster, this Department and the folks who work there are on the frontline for us.
Because of the Department's significant role in the security of our country, I have been very concerned--very concerned--for many months about the high number of senior level vacancies at the Department of Homeland Security. In fact, the Department has been without a Senate- confirmed Deputy Secretary since April and without a Senate-confirmed Secretary since I think late last summer.
Earlier this week, we took an important step to address this problem by voting to confirm Jeh Johnson, a good man, as the next Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security with an overwhelming bipartisan vote. I wish to thank our Republican colleagues for joining us in that vote. That is good news. But we should not stop there. We need to ensure that Secretary Johnson has a Senate-confirmed leadership team in place and that certainly includes Alejandro Mayorkas as his Deputy.
I wish to take a few minutes, if I could, to speak in strong support of the nomination of Director Mayorkas' nomination and explain why I am convinced he is one of the leaders we urgently need at the Department of Homeland Security. As of this week, more than 8 months have passed since former Deputy Secretary Jane Holl Lute stepped down from her post at DHS, and nearly 6 months have passed since the President has nominated this man, currently the Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, for that post. It is time to put in place Senate- confirmed leadership in this very important Deputy Secretary position.
The former Deputy Secretary--the last Senate-confirmed Deputy Secretary for this Department--was a woman named Jane Holl Lute, a very impressive leader in her own right and widely respected not just by members of the committee but by many of our colleagues, Democrats and Republicans, in the Senate for her leadership, management skills, expertise, and for her candor. She helped DHS make strides in many areas; for example, in narrowing the operational and management issues identified as high risk by the Government Accountability Office. Ever since the Department of Homeland Security was created, it has been on the high-risk list every other year by GAO. They put it out at the beginning of every Congress, and one of the leaders, if you will, in terms of getting a lot of mentions on the high-risk list, is the Department of Homeland Security.
[[Page S8970]] One of the criticisms of the Department for the last 10 years is they never passed a financial audit. They are supposed to, under a law passed roughly 20 years ago, and little by little every Federal agency, except the Department of Defense, has become auditable and then finally achieved a clean audit. Last week we learned the Department of Homeland Security, within 10 years or so, finally has achieved that goal.
Why is that important? Because what we cannot measure, we cannot manage. This is a big Department, spread out across the country. There are 22 disparate agencies, with hundreds of thousands of employees, and they need to be well managed.
One of Jane Holl Lute's accomplishments, along with Janet Napolitano, the former Secretary, was to make them auditable and to get them a clean audit. I think it is safe to say that the Department needs somebody with the same kind of commitment and willingness to tackle problems head-on that Jane Holl Lute brought to the job.
Similarly, Director Mayorkas understands and is well prepared to tackle these management challenges and is committed to continuing these reform efforts needed to move the Department forward.
Director Mayorkas has a distinguished record of leadership in public service. In fact, he has been confirmed by the Senate not once but twice--first as the U.S. attorney for the Central District of California, the youngest U.S. attorney in the country at the time, and again in his current capacity as the leader of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. He has also served as a partner in a major U.S. law firm, O'Melveny & Myers.
Director Mayorkas has a long and distinguished record in law enforcement. As an assistant U.S. attorney, he aggressively prosecuted drug traffickers, human smugglers, and violent criminals. As U.S. attorney, Mr. Mayorkas led the largest Federal judicial system in the United States and was appointed by then-U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno to serve on her advisory committee on ethics and government. Moreover, while a partner at O'Melveny & Myers, he served as chair of the firm's Values Committee and he was a recipient of the firm's annual Values Award.
Since his confirmation by voice vote by the Senate in 2009, Director Mayorkas has served as Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. He has skillfully led the largest immigration system in the world. In this capacity, Director Mayorkas has been responsible for an 18,000-member workforce that maintains more than 200 offices worldwide and is supported by a $3 billion budget.
Director Mayorkas has led the effort to turn around an agency that was widely considered to be foundering. He has helped to put it on the path to professionalism and competence. His first action after being confirmed several years ago was to order a top-to-bottom review of the agency to identify its strengths and to identify its weaknesses.
When the review concluded, Director Mayorkas became concerned that Citizenship and Immigration Services was prioritizing speed over security when it came to processing visa applications. In order to make sure that national security concerns were getting the proper attention, he created an entirely new directorate responsible for policing visa issuance, reporting directly to him. This ensured that national security professionals would have a seat at the management table and a voice in all major decisions.
Director Mayorkas has proven that he is an exceptional manager during his time at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Let me give a couple concrete examples of how he has made the agency more effective.
He dramatically improved what I believe is one of the most important programs in all of DHS; that is, E-Verify. This is a voluntary program that allows employers to check whether prospective employees are eligible to work in the United States. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that under Director Mayorkas' leadership, the number of employers using E-Verify tripled--from 156,000 employers in 2009 to almost half a million today. The number of people processed by E-Verify also increased from nearly 9 million to over 20 million people. That is remarkable improvement in this important program.
His implementation last year of the President's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program--a hugely complicated and challenging undertaking that brought hundreds of thousands of people out of the shadows--has also been widely praised.
Within 60 days, Director Mayorkas managed to implement a program that processed hundreds of thousands of people while ensuring that the appropriate security checks were performed. I think it is a stunning achievement.
Here is something else I found interesting. Just yesterday, the Partnership for Public Service issued its rankings of the best places to work in the Federal Government in 2013--just yesterday. On the one hand, I was dismayed to find out that the Department of Homeland Security ranked last on their list of Cabinet Departments. However, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, led by Ali Mayorkas, was one of the highest ranked components within the Department of Homeland Security, coming in, I think, at 76 out of some 300 Federal agencies. And after Alejandro Mayorkas took over in 2009, employee satisfaction with senior leadership did not drop; it increased by over 20 percent. We need more of that kind of proven and committed leadership at DHS.
Everything I have learned about Director Mayorkas over the past year--and I have learned a lot--has led me to conclude that he is an exceptional candidate to be the next Deputy Secretary at this Department.
But don't just take my word for it. Director Mayorkas has received glowing accolades from a number of our colleagues who have worked closely with him.
I might also say that he has been strongly endorsed by every single former Secretary of this Department, every one of them, two appointed by George W. Bush and one by our current President. They have all endorsed him.
He has also been endorsed by a number of our colleagues--Mary Landrieu, who knows him well, who is a valued member of our committee; Dianne Feinstein from California, who recommended Director Mayorkas for his positions--both as U.S. attorney out there to President Clinton and to President Obama for his current leadership position.
We have also received dozens of letters from a distinguished, bipartisan group of individuals and organizations asking us to move forward with this nomination. I want to take a minute or two, if I could, right now to share with our colleagues what some of these distinguished people have been saying about Director Alejandro Mayorkas.
Among those writing on his behalf are many individuals whom a lot of us deeply respect. I mentioned Jane Holl Lute, the previous Deputy Secretary; and Richard Skinner, the last Senate-confirmed Department of Homeland Security inspector general, who was nominated by former President George W. Bush.
I particularly value what Jane Holl Lute has to say given that she has an unparalleled perspective on what it takes to be an effective Deputy Secretary. She was one herself, and she was terrific. Here is what she said about Director Mayorkas: As I have come to know Ali, I can tell you that he asks no more of others than he does of himself, and, in leading by example, sets a standard of excellence for all who consider themselves committed to public service. In my view, Homeland Security could be in no better hands.
That is Jane Holl Lute.
In one of two support letters--not one but two support letters-- Richard Skinner, the last Senate-confirmed inspector general of the Department of Homeland Security--again, a Bush appointee--he sent two letters to our committee, including one earlier this month, and in it he said this of Ali Mayorkas: During my tenure as Inspector General, Mr. Mayorkas demonstrated that he possessed the intellectual wherewithal to make objective and often times very tough decisions on complex, multifaceted issues, and a genuine commitment to the mission, vision, and core values of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. He is a strong leader who will be able to bring together diverse interests in collaborative efforts.
That is the last Senate-confirmed inspector general for this Department.
The list of supporters for Director Mayorkas also includes other senior officials in the George W. Bush administration, such as Kenneth Wainstein, [[Page S8971]] who was President Bush's Homeland Security Advisor. Here is what Mr. Wainstein had to say: Ali has consistently shown an exceptional ability to mobilize, manage, and lead people and organizations . . . as USCIS Director, he has effectively led a large and complex organization during a time of continuing change and challenge. His marked success in that difficult role is a strong predictor of his performance in the Deputy Secretary position.
Again, that is what Mr. Wainstein had to say. I could not agree more.
Those from the law enforcement community also laud Director Mayorkas. For example, we received strong letters of support from the people charged with securing our borders during the George W. Bush administration: Robert Bonner, Ralph Basham, and Jason Ahern--all of whom served as Commissioner of Customs and Border Protection within the Department of Homeland Security.
Mr. Bonner wrote: It is not merely his willingness to serve the public good that impels me to write this letter of support for his nomination, it is rather my firm belief that Ali has the experience, skills, talents, and plain old good judgment to be an effective Deputy Secretary, perhaps the best DHS has ever had.
Having succeeded Jane Holl Lute, that is saying a mouthful.
Mr. Basham also wrote: Mr. Mayorkas has already served the Department well and honorably in the role of Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. I also believe Mr. Mayorkas to be a public servant of integrity with a clear and distinguished track record of leadership.
Mr. Ahern, also one of the past Commissioners of this Department, said these words: It is my strong opinion that Director Mayorkas' experience and leadership will be invaluable as DHS continues the work of protecting the homeland against threats of all kinds. As the Department of Homeland Security continues to mature, Alejandro Mayorkas is the right leader to continue that development and also meet the many critical mission challenges faced every day.
Think about it. The three most senior border security officials who served under George W. Bush all agree that Director Ali Mayorkas would make an outstanding Deputy Secretary. They have worked with him in many cases. They know him. They have seen him up close and in person. They have watched him lead.
But it is not only former DHS officials who feel that way. Chuck Canterbury, the national president of the Fraternal Order of Police, said that Director Mayorkas' ``professionalism, leadership skills and integrity make him an ideal candidate for this post.'' All of these individuals who have worked closely with Director Mayorkas have spoken highly of him. They cite his integrity, his commitment to excellence, and his tenacity.
I will close with this. At his confirmation hearing Director Mayorkas said that his goal in life has always been to bring honor to his parents. His parents brought him to this country as a refugee from Cuba when he was 1 year old, he and his brothers. They worked hard every day to give him and his brothers the opportunity to go to school and make a better life for themselves. Like his parents, Alejandro Mayorkas has worked hard all of his life. He has worked hard and he has worked hard in part to make them proud.
I believe he has brought great honor to them and to this country and, if confirmed, would continue to do so as Deputy Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.
I urge all of my colleagues to support his nomination.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The assistant majority leader.