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Posts tagged ‘Alejandro Mayorkas’

Exhausted Harry Reid Released from Hospital.


Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was released from the hospital after being diagnosed as exhausted and was cleared to return to work, a statement from his office said on Friday.

Reid, 74, had gone to the hospital as a precaution. “The doctors diagnosed him as exhausted, not anything more serious, and have cleared him to go back to work,” the statement said.

The Nevada Democrat missed several key Senate votes as lawmakers wrapped up their work before the holiday break.

Senate Assistant Majority Leader Richard Durbin earlier said that he had spoken with Reid.

“He sounds hale and hearty and anxious to get home and then back to work,” Durbin said on the Senate floor Friday afternoon.

“We look forward to that happening when he returns to this desk early in the new year,” Durbin said just before the chamber halted its work for 2013. Senators return for legislative business in early January.

Reid, who was first elected to the Senate in 1986 and became its leader in 2007, suffered a stroke in 2005 and was injured last year when his motorcade crashed in Las Vegas.

In Reid’s absence on Friday, the Senate voted to approve John Koskinen, President Barack Obama’s nominee to lead the Internal Revenue Service, and Alejandro Mayorkas, Obama’s pick for deputy secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.

Obama’s nominee to head the U.S. Federal Reserve, Janet Yellen, also advanced on a key procedural vote. The Senate is expected to officially confirm Yellen, currently the Fed’s vice chair, on Jan. 6.

© 2013 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.
Source: Newsmax.com

Senate Confirms Turnaround Specialist Koskinen to Head IRS.


Image: Senate Confirms Turnaround Specialist Koskinen to Head IRS

The Senate voted Friday to confirm a retired corporate and government turnaround specialist to head the Internal Revenue Service, an agency recovering from scandal as it gears up to play a big role in implementing the president’s health care law.

John Koskinen, 74, won a five-year term as IRS commissioner, which would last beyond President Barack Obama’s stay in office. The vote was 59-36.

Koskinen’s confirmation was one of several being voted on Friday as the Senate wrapped up its work for the year. The Senate also voted to confirm Alejandro Mayorkas to be deputy secretary of Homeland Security, and Brian J. Davis to be a U.S. District Court judge in Florida.

Also Friday, the Senate cleared the way for Janet Yellen to succeed Ben Bernanke as head of the Federal Reserve. The procedural vote will allow the confirmation of Yellen as the first woman to lead the Fed on Jan. 6, after the Senate returns from its holiday vacation.

Friday’s votes ended a contentious year in the Senate in which majority Democrats changed the rules to make it easier to confirm the president’s nominees. Democratic leaders said they were frustrated because Republicans had blocked many qualified candidates from final confirmation votes. Republicans complained that Democrats were trampling the rights of the minority party, ending decades of precedent.

Obama tapped Koskinen for the IRS job following revelations that agents had targeted tea party and other conservative groups for extra, sometimes burdensome scrutiny when they applied for tax-exempt status during the 2010 and 2012 elections. The Justice Department and three congressional committees have launched investigations.

The investigations, which are ongoing, have shown that IRS workers in a Cincinnati office started singling out conservative political groups in the spring of 2010 and continued to do so until 2012. IRS supervisors in Washington oversaw the targeting but there has been no evidence released so far that anyone outside the IRS knew about the targeting or directed it.

At his confirmation hearing, Koskinen said he will work to restore public trust in the agency.

“People need to have a view that the IRS is a nonpolitical, nonpartisan agency and that they will all be treated fairly no matter what their affiliation or political view,” Koskinen said.

Koskinen’s nomination had bipartisan support, but some Republicans wanted his confirmation delayed until the investigations were completed. Democrats said the position was too important to go unfilled, especially as the IRS takes on the health law.

“Mr. Koskinen is the type of leader we need at the IRS,” said Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., chairman of the Finance Committee. “His experience as a turnaround artist in the public and private sector will be critical as he takes on this challenge.”

Koskinen has extensive experience in the public and private sectors. He came in to overhaul mortgage buyer Freddie Mac after its near-collapse in the financial crisis at the end of President George W. Bush’s administration. He also oversaw preparations for potential computer problems associated with the Year 2000 under President Bill Clinton.

With about 90,000 employees, the IRS processes more than 140 million individual income tax returns each year.

The IRS, which is part of the Treasury Department, will be in charge of enforcing the mandate that most individuals have health insurance, and collecting fines from people who don’t. The IRS will also distribute subsidies to help people buy insurance in new state-based marketplaces known as exchanges.

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© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Source: Newsmax.com

Senate Confirmation of Yellen Delayed.


Image: Senate Confirmation of Yellen Delayed

By Melanie Batley

A final vote in the Senate expected this week to confirm Janet Yellen as chairman of the Federal Reserve has been postponed until early January as part of a deal with Republicans to secure the confirmations of three other presidential nominees.

The decision by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was an attempt to break a stalemate between the parties which reached fever pitch after Democrats changed the filibuster rules to ram through appointments that had been stalled for months, according to Bloomberg. Republicans have since been digging in their heels by dragging out debate on each appointment.

“I think the solution to this is not to throw daggers at each other but to sit down and talk this through,” Indiana GOP Sen. Dan Coats said on the Senate floor shortly after the agreement was announced, according to The Washington Post.

Senators will vote to end formal debate on Yellen’s nomination Friday, take a two-week holiday break, then return Jan. 6 for the final vote, Bloomberg reports.

In exchange, votes to confirm three other presidential nominees are set for Friday, including John Koskinen as commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service, Alejandro Mayorkas as deputy secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, and Brian Davis to be a federal judge in Florida.

Under the new filibuster rules, Yellen needs the support of a simple majority of the Senate’s 100 members to become the 15th chairman and first woman to head the central bank in its 100-year history. If confirmed, she will replace Ben Bernanke whose term expires on Jan. 31.

“We need her expertise at the helm of the Fed as our nation continues to recover from the great recession, completes Wall Street reform rule-makings and continues to enhance the stability of our financial sector,” Senate Banking Chairman Tim Johnson, a South Dakota Democrat, said in a floor speech, according to Bloomberg.

Yellen said at her Nov. 14 confirmation hearing that she will maintain current policies until “strong recovery” allows the bank to scale back monetary accommodation.

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© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

DHS Inspector General Steps Down Amidst Congressional Probe.


The embattled Homeland Security inspector general under investigation for abusing the powers of his office and altering reports on a Secret Service scandal to keep from embarrassing the Obama administration has stepped down from his job, The Washington Post reported Tuesday.

Acting Inspector General Charles Edwards, who had been in charge of investigating allegations of wrongdoing within the department’s numerous agencies and bureaus, was transferred to the department’s Science and Technology office, according to Fox News. 

Homeland Security said Edwards requested the transfer last week. Details of his new job are unclear.

Whistle blowers charge that Edwards and his staff changed findings in reports, delayed investigations and threatened to retaliate against anyone who questioned his decisions.

In particular, when Congress requested a probe into the culture of the Secret Service after agents were caught drinking and hiring prostitutes during a presidential visit in Colombia in April 2012, Edwards allegedly omitted potentially damaging information.

Whistle blowers also accused Edwards of asking employees to do his homework and write his Ph.D. dissertation, and used office funds to attend classes in Florida, the Post reported.

Edwards has previously called the accusations, “completely without merit.”

The timing of Edwards’ DHS post reassignment comes just three days before he was scheduled to testify at a Senate hearing on whether he had altered and delayed investigations to please the agency heads and the White House, the Post reported.

It’s not clear if that hearing will go forward on Thursday.

Most recently, Edwards headed up a probe of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Director Alejandro Mayorkas over whether he improperly influenced decisions in a foreign investor visa program.

John Roth, a top criminal investigator at the Food and Drug Administration, has been tapped to become the permanent inspector general.

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© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.
By Cynthia Fagen

DHS Official Investigating Obama Nominee Steps Down Amid Probe.


The Homeland Security Department official investigating President Barack Obama’s nominee to become the department’s second-highest ranking official has left his post. He is transferring to another office in the department.

Charles K. Edwards was the acting inspector general. He most recently headed a probe of Alejandro Mayorkas, the Citizenship and Immigration Services director whom Obama wants to become deputy secretary. Mayorkas was accused of improperly influencing decisions in a foreign investor visa program. He has said he did nothing wrong.

Edwards himself was accused of wrongdoing. A Senate subcommittee was investigating claims that Edwards was susceptible to political pressure, engaged in nepotism and abused his authority in other ways. Edwards also has denied he did these things.

The department said Edwards requested the job change last week.

© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Source: Newsmax.com

Wash. Times: Reid Pressured Feds on Visa Applications.


Image: Wash. Times: Reid Pressured Feds on Visa Applications

By Drew MacKenzie

The Obama administration fast-tracked visa applications for two dozen foreign investors of a Las Vegas casino hotel after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and his staff intervened, The Washington Times reported Wednesday.

The visas were approved despite Homeland Security officials initially denying the applications due to concerns about “suspicious financial activity” involving some of the Asian applicants.

The companies in the U.S. that will most benefit from the visa approvals have executives who are politically-connected and have been heavy Democratic donors in the past, says the Times.

According to the Times, Reid, a Nevada Democrat, personally put pressure on the top official at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), Alejandro Mayorkas, who is President Barack Obama’s current nominee to be the No. 2 Homeland Security official. His appointment is due to be reviewed by the Senate on Wednesday.

The Asian investors behind a major renovation of the SLS Hotel on the Las Vegas Strip, previously known as the historic Sahara Casino, are reportedly receiving the expedited EB-5 green card applications.

Although the Times reported that Reid’s staff was involved from the beginning of the applications, Homeland Security officials at first turned down requests by the SLS Hotel for the visas on the grounds that the building failed to meet the normal criteria for expedited review. The Homeland decision issued in December last year stated, “there is no appeal or reconsideration of this decision.”

According to the Times, the interference from Reid’s staff was so fierce that there was even an angry shouting match over the phone involving an immigration official.

“This one is going to be a major headache for us all because Mr. Reid’s office/staff is pushing hard and I just had a long yelling match on the phone,” USCIS Legislative Affairs official Miguel “Mike” Rodriguez warned in an email last year to Homeland Security Department officials.

The Times reported that Reid’s staff allegedly urged Homeland Security officials to change their minds on the applications, repeatedly saying that the hotel would lose its potential funding for its renovation if the USCIS didn’t expedite the visas.

Michael Vannozzi, a former top aide to Reid, wrote to Homeland Security, saying, “As you can imagine this project is pretty important to Southern Nevada. It will probably be the only ‘new’ property opening up on the Strip for some time, and if their $300 million senior lending facility from JP Morgan Chase expires because these visas aren’t processed expeditiously, it will be a huge setback for the project and the 8,600 jobs associated with it.”

The EB-5 visa gives permanent residency status, or green cards, to foreign nationals who invest $1 million, or $500,000 in high unemployment areas, creating at least 10 jobs.

The Times noted that Reid’s office and hotel officials did not respond to repeated requests from the newspaper for comment.

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© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

GOP Senators to Boycott Hearing on Obama’s Troubled No. 2 DHS Pick.


Senate Republicans said they would boycott Thursday’s hearing on President Barack Obama’s nominee for the No. 2 spot at the Department of Homeland Security because of accusations that he misused his government position to help a Chinese company get U.S. visas.

Sen. Tom Coburn, the ranking Republican on the Homeland Security Committee, said on Wednesday that the hearing for Alejandro Mayorkas should not be held until the department’s inspector general completes its investigation, The Hill reports.

Mayorkas is accused of using his current role as director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to get investment visas for a Chinese company linked to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s brother and to Terry McAuliffe, the former Democratic Party chairman and Democratic candidate for governor in Virginia.

“You can’t go to a hearing on a guy that’s under investigation by an IG and, first of all be fair to him, and also ask the questions you need to ask because you don’t know what the questions are,” Coburn, who represents Oklahoma, told the Hill. “Having the hearing may satisfy the White House, but it doesn’t move the nomination at all.”

But the panel’s Democratic chairman, Tom Carper of Delaware, told the Hill that the hearing would proceed as scheduled.

“The Department of Homeland Security is riddled with vacancies, at very high levels,” Carper said. “The administration needs to feel a sense of urgency in nominating people to fill these vacancies, and we have an obligation when they do to at least vet them.”

The investors applied for the visas through a company headed by Anthony Rodham, the Hill reports. Rodham allegedly sought Mayorkas’s help in January, telling him that the visa delay could hurt a maker of energy-efficient vehicles that was co-founded by McAuliffe, who is a Clinton family friend.

© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

By Todd Beamon

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