The Florida Democratic Party plans to up the pressure on Republican Sens. Marco Rubio and Rick Scott as Senate Republicans continue to resist fast-tracking confirmation of the new Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary.
Republican Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri blocked an effort last week to use unanimous consent to move forward on Alejandro Mayorkas‘ nomination. President Joe Biden selected the Cuban-American to lead the agency. Mayorkas, who was born in Havana, would be the first Latino to do so.
Though the Senate moved swiftly to confirm Biden’s Defense Secretary pick, they’ve not done the same for the DHS position, instead opting for a more standard confirmation timeline. Like the Department of Defense, DHS also handles significant national security work. Those positions are often approved more quickly than other Cabinet posts.
While it was Hawley who held up the nomination originally, Florida Democrats now plan to target Rubio and Scott for not speaking out more strongly to get that process moving. Democrats have signaled a similar effort when it comes to the nomination of Xavier Becerra for Department of Health and Human Services Secretary.
“In the week ahead, Democrats will highlight how Scott and Rubio’s refusal to quickly support Mayorkas could alienate Cuban-American voters in Florida, as well as the practical homeland security implications of delaying this confirmation for Floridians,” according to a Democratic source familiar with the plan. “The effort will begin on Monday with a statement from the Florida Democrats’ new Chair, Cuban-American Manny Diaz, and other Cuban-American leaders in Florida.”
Republicans typically hold more sway with Cuban voters than other Hispanic sub-groups. The GOP resonated with Hispanic voters even more than usual this past November, giving Democrats an uphill battle to rebound from their resounding defeat in 2022 in beyond.
That work began with electing Diaz, a former Miami Mayor, as the new chair of the Florida Democratic Party. Diaz argues that if Rubio and Scott don’t push their caucus to move quickly on the nomination, the issue could be used as a cudgel going forward.
“In the wake of the deadly insurrectionist attack on our Capitol, it is imperative to have trusted, experienced leaders working seamlessly with President Biden in our most important national security roles. With the historic nomination of Alejandro Mayorkas, President Biden has chosen an impeccably credentialed fellow Cuban-American who is ready to take the reigns of DHS on day one,” Diaz said, according to an early copy of his planned Monday remarks.
“It is imperative that Sens. Rubio and Scott forgo the politics of partisan obstructionism and instead put our national security interests first by swiftly confirming Alejandro Mayorkas, allowing him to work immediately to keep our homeland and fellow citizens safe and secure. I am hopeful that our Senators share our enormous pride and will support President Biden’s selection of Alejandro Mayorkas. If they do not, it will be a historic affront to Florida’s Cuban-Americans as well as our greater immigrant community, and it will jeopardize our nation’s safety for the sake of their own self-serving politics.”
Mayorkas is likely to be confirmed, whether Senate Republicans change course or not. The U.S. Senate has already confirmed Mayorkas to multiple different positions, including most recently as the DHS Deputy Secretary under former President Barack Obama.
By Hawley blocking unanimous consent, the Senate will require Mayorkas’ nomination to go through the normal committee process before moving to the full Senate floor. Juan-Carlos Planas, a former Republican Florida lawmaker now aligned with Florida Democrats, also plans to bash the delay.
“Senate Republicans’ latest stunt of delaying Alejandro Mayorkas’ confirmation is not only ridiculous, but it puts the safety of the American people at great risk,” Planas argues.
“If Sens. Rubio and Scott want to offer more than empty words to Cubans in our state and the greater immigrant community in Florida, then they should follow precedent and move quickly to support the confirmation of Alejandro Mayorkas — a proven leader and one of the most knowledgeable homeland security experts in the country.”
The agency is of particular importance here in Florida. Customs and Border Patrol, which is a component of DHS, secures two dozen ports of entry inside Florida. DHS also oversees the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which provides assistance to the state for disaster relief, including millions of dollars in recovery grants.
Biden has named David Pekoske as acting head of DHS until the Senate confirms Mayorkas.