The Senate confirmed Jeh C. Johnson on Monday as President Obama’s secretary of homeland security.
Johnson’s nomination was held up in the Senate fight over filibusters. In the end, however, his appointment was approved, 78-16, after the relaxed filibuster rules forced by the Democrats allowed a final vote.
It will not be the first time that Johnson has a significant influence on the Obama administration’s national security policies. He framed many of them as the Defense Department’s general counsel during Obama’s first term.
“As secretary of homeland security, Jeh will play a leading role in our efforts to protect the homeland against terrorist attacks, adapt to changing threats, stay prepared for natural disasters, strengthen our border security, and make our immigration system fairer,” Obama said in a statement.
Johnson, 56, will fill the vacancy left by Janet Napolitano, a former governor of Arizona.
He does not come to the job with Napolitano’s credentials on border security and immigration. But Johnson was a legal adviser to Obama during his first presidential campaign and shares many of the president’s ideas about counterterrorism operations.
In the first term, Johnson helped Obama reshape President George W. Bush’s counterterrorism policies. Johnson influenced the administration’s approach to the detention of terrorism suspects and drone strikes in Yemen and Somalia. And he was a leading force in the drive to end the “don’t ask, don’t tell” law and to allow gay men and lesbians to serve openly in the military.
He has also said that the United States must not be too quick to declare that the fight with Al Qaeda is over. In speeches, he has stressed that Al Qaeda affiliates in Yemen and in North and West Africa pose threats to US security.