Republicans warn Cuccinelli won’t get confirmed by GOP Senate – By Jordain Carney (The Hill) / June 10 2019
Senate Republicans are warning that Ken Cuccinelli, who was tapped Monday to serve as the acting head of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), will not be confirmed by the GOP-controlled Senate.
Cuccinelli started his job atop the immigration agency Monday, a controversial move that came even after top Senate Republicans publicly warned that the former Senate Conservatives Fund leader would face a rocky reception on Capitol Hill.
Trump hasn’t said if he will try to get Cuccinelli confirmed to the spot on a permanent basis. But Republican senators sent a warning shot on Monday, predicting that he likely cannot be confirmed in the GOP-controlled Senate, where a nomination has to lose four Republican senators to fall short of the simple majority required for nominations.
“I think … he would have had a hard time getting confirmed,” Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), the No. 2 Senate Republican, told reporters.
Asked about putting Cuccinelli in the spot in an “acting” capacity, Thune added that it’s “probably the only way they could get him in there” and that it would be “hard” for the administration to get the former Virginia attorney general in the role permanently.
Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), a member of GOP leadership, added that he doesn’t support Cuccinelli as USCIS chief, noting his previous role as an antagonist for Senate Republicans, including Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).
“He’s made a career of attacking other Republicans and frankly attacking President Trump, so I doubt he’ll have the support to get confirmed,” Cornyn said.
Republicans have a 53-47 majority in the Senate. Cuccinelli would have to lose four Republican senators and win no support from Democrats if he was sent before the Senate for confirmation.
But the pushback from top Senate Republicans comes after McConnell publicly warned earlier this year that he did not want Cuccinelli as the next Department of Homeland Security secretary. Cuccinelli tried to unseat McConnell in 2014, including backing his primary opponent, Matt Bevin.
“I’ve not spoken to him about any of them. I have expressed my, shall I say, lack of enthusiasm for one of them … Ken Cuccinelli,” McConnell told reporters in April.
Cuccinelli is replacing Lee Francis Cissna, who was forced out as USCIS chief late last month amid a shake-up at the department that was engineered by top White House policy adviser Stephen Miller.
The ousting of Cissna sparked backlash from Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), who called acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney to make the case for keeping the former Grassley staffer in the USCIS position.
Cuccinelli is also the latest in a growing number of administration positions Trump is filing in an “acting” capacity, letting him avoid having his nominations go through potentially bloody Senate confirmation battles.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said on Monday that he didn’t think appointing Cuccinelli in an acting capacity was a “wise move” because the tensions could spill over into other nominations.
“Just knowing people the way I do, it’s going to make some people angry,” Rubio said.
Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) said he would give Cuccinelli a “careful review” but indicated he would rather Trump name someone on a permanent basis.
“I prefer votes in the Senate for positions of that nature,” he said.