Senate Confirms Kirstjen Nielsen as New Homeland Security Chief

The Senate on Tuesday confirmed Kirstjen Nielsen to be secretary of Homeland Security, permanently filling the vacancy created when President Donald Trump selected retired Gen. John Kelly to be his chief of staff.

Kirstjen Nielsen testifies before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on Nov. 8, 2017 in Washington, D.C. (Credit: Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Kirstjen Nielsen testifies before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on Nov. 8, 2017 in Washington, D.C. (Credit: Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Kelly left the Department of Homeland Security for the White House in late July during a shake-up that included the resignation of the former chief of staff, Reince Priebus. Trump did not make his selection for Kelly’s replacement until October, when he announced Nielsen as his choice to lead the Department.

Nielsen was Kelly’s chief of staff at DHS and went with him to the White House before Trump nominated her.

Nielsen’s successful nomination makes her the second woman, after Janet Napolitano, to be confirmed to the position. After Kelly’s move to the White House, Elaine Duke served as acting secretary.

The Senate confirmed Nielsen 62-37, with 11 members of the Democratic caucus joining the Republicans and Tennessee Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander not voting.

The key Cabinet position, created after the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, oversees a myriad of agencies tasked with protecting the U.S. and managing immigration and customs. It is central to executing specific Trump agenda points, including his hardline approach to immigration, establishing a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border and implementing his travel ban, which the Supreme Court decided on Monday to resume.

At her confirmation hearing in November, Nielsen maintained she would continue to operate DHS the way Kelly had, including parting with Trump’s campaign promise on the proposed border wall.

“There is no need for a wall from sea to shining sea,” Nielsen said.