At confirmation hearing, DHS nominee Kelly says he can stand up to authority

By Doug G. Ware   |   Jan. 10, 2017 at 7:13 PM
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WASHINGTON, Jan. 10 (UPI) -- The confirmation of homeland security secretary designate John Kelly got underway Tuesday in the Senate.

Kelly, President-elect Donald Trump's pick to lead the U.S. security department, began answering questions from the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday.

One of the questions he faced involved Trump's pledge to build a wall between the United States and Mexico. As homeland security chief, Kelly would play a significant role in such a project.

Kelly said, though, that simply putting up a wall and hoping to stem the flow of drugs and migrants would not be enough.

"A physical barrier in and of itself will not do the job," he said. "It has to be really a layered defense."

Kelly, a retired general of the U.S. Marine Corps, also told the panel Tuesday that he believes in "diversity of opinion" and has never had trouble standing up to other authority figures.

Retired U.S. Marine Corps Gen. John Kelly (L), nominee to head the Dept. of Homeland Security, confers with Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Ron Johnson, R-Wis., on Capitol Hill on Tuesday. Photo by Mike Theiler/UPI

For Democrats weary of the president-elect's intentions, it is critical to have members of his Cabinet who aren't afraid to tell Trump when he's wrong.

"Given your experience I expect you to be up to that challenge," Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., told Kelly.

The military veteran, 66, is expected to gain easy approval from the Senate.

Several of Trump's appointees will begin confirmation hearings this week and some will be held next week. Hearings for education nominee Betsy DeVos and CIA director designate Mike Pompeo were rescheduled due to what some lawmakers feared was an overloaded schedule.

Trump's pick for attorney general, Jeff Sessions, also began his confirmation hearing Tuesday. Secretary of state appointee Rex Tillerson and transportation chief Elaine Chao are scheduled for hearings tomorrow in their respective committees.

The hearings for Kelly and Sessions were scheduled to continue into Wednesday.

The Senate panels can recommend approval or rejection for each nominee, or submit no recommendation at all, when it sends the postings to the full chamber for a vote. Confirmation requires only a simple majority in both arenas.

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