The Senate voted today 57 to 43 to approve the nomination of Alejandro Mayorkas to head the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

The confirmation vote marks the return of Mayorkas to DHS, where he was deputy secretary during the second Obama administration, and developed a profile in cybersecurity issues. Before that, he headed U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, which is one of the many component agencies under the DHS umbrella.

In his confirmation hearing before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee last month, Mayorkas pledged to make cybersecurity a high priority under his leadership.

“I can assure you that the cybersecurity of our nation will be one of my highest priorities because I concur with you that the threat is real,” Mayorkas told committee members. “The threat is every day, and we have to do a much better job than we are doing now,” he said.

Mayorkas also praised the work of DHS’ Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) component, and reinforced central tenets of its mission.

“CISA must improve the cyber hygiene of the Federal government for the many departments and agencies throughout it,” Mayorkas said. “It must strengthen the public-private partnership, not only for the benefit, of course of the Federal government, but for the benefit of the private sector itself.”

“I take stock of the fact that the Solarium Commission’s recommendation for a National Cybersecurity director was passed,” he continued. “I think this is going to require an all of government approach, and there’s a great amount that will rest on the shoulders of CISA.”

In a statement today, Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, applauded the Senate vote, but chided legislators who blocked the way for faster approval of the nominee.

“DHS has been without a permanent leader for almost two years, and there was no valid reason for Senate Republicans to filibuster and delay his confirmation,” Rep. Thompson said.

“Mr. Mayorkas is a seasoned DHS veteran with bipartisan support who has the experience and background we need right now,” Rep. Thompson continued. “His extensive work on immigration, cybersecurity, and counterterrorism issues make him uniquely qualified to ensure the country remains resilient and secure.”

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John Curran
John Curran
John Curran is MeriTalk's Managing Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.