McConnell doesn’t want Trump to nominate Ken Cuccinelli for DHS Secretary

April 13, 2019 by Ben Marquis

In his role as Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell has helped shepherd numerous nominees from President Donald Trump through the Senate’s often grueling confirmation process.

However, facing concerted opposition from Senate Democrats and wavering support for certain conservative nominees from a handful of spineless establishment Republicans, McConnell has sent a clear message to the president: Pick nominees that are easier to confirm.

McConnell opposes Cuccinelli for DHS

McConnell was asked by reporters on Thursday about a couple of names that had been floated as potential nominees to succeed Kirstjen Nielsen as secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, specifically former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli and former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach.

“I’ve not spoken to (Trump) about any of them,” McConnell said. “I have expressed my, shall I say, lack of enthusiasm for one of them … Ken Cuccinelli.”

McConnell’s distaste for Cuccinelli isn’t surprising. Cuccinelli is the head of the Senate Conservatives Fund, a Super PAC which supports truly conservative candidates for the Senate in opposition to establishment Republicans.

Multiple conservative leaders have come out in support of Cuccinelli for the DHS position, citing his “background as a no-nonsense law enforcement officer and a major constitutional lawyer, along with his reputation as a fighter, combined with his extensive media experience.” 

Little room for defections

As for Kobach, a staunch conservative with a hard-line approach to illegal immigration and border security issues, McConnell declined to offer an opinion and instead seemed to suggest he would face opposition from some Republicans as he placed the ball back in Trump’s court.

“Look I’m not going to handicap all the people that could come up. There are a number of members … who have had some reservations about some of the names that have been mentioned,” McConnell said.

In other words … McConnell has grown tired of wrangling with his own members to garner a majority of votes in the Senate to confirm Trump nominees that the president’s haters don’t want to see confirmed.

Considering Republicans only hold a 53-47 majority over Democrats in the deliberative body of Congress, Trump and McConnell can only afford to lose the support of three Republicans when it comes to confirmations, which would result in a 50-50 tie that would break in Trump’s favor with a tie-breaking vote cast by Vice President Mike Pence.

Opposition from Trump’s haters

As was noted by CNN, it isn’t just the prospective DHS secretary nominees that present a confirmation problem for McConnell, but also Trump’s recent nominees for open seats on the Federal Reserve Board, Herman Cain and Stephen Moore.

Cain, despite having served on the Fed in the past, is openly opposed by at least four Republican senators. Moore hasn’t faced quite as much opposition, but has still drawn some scrutiny over a tax lien in the past and his close relationship with the president, having served as an economic adviser to the 2016 campaign and subsequent administration.

As president, Trump can nominate whoever he wants for whatever positions he desires. However, as per the Constitution, those nominations must be confirmed by the Senate, and given how contentious that process has become in the face of opposition to every move by the president, it appears McConnell is tired of fighting on behalf of more conservative candidates.