Johnson, 56, the former general counsel for the Pentagon, won confirmation on an overwhelming vote, 78 to 16, as the Senate continued churning through an end-of-session batch of nominees to fill President Barack Obama’s Cabinet and the federal judiciary.
Unlike some nominees who have encountered Republican opposition, Johnson won the votes of 23 GOP senators, a majority, and all 55 members of the Democratic caucus.
“As we all know, the president has asked Jeh Johnson to take on a difficult and demanding job,” said Sen. Thomas Carper, D-Del., chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. “Fortunately for our nation, he is a strong leader and well prepared to face the challenges that await him.”
Johnson, who will be one of three African-Americans in the Cabinet, is expected to be sworn in by the end of the week.
A former Air Force general counsel, Johnson takes over a department that oversees 22 agencies with a far-flung jurisdiction that includes counterterrorism, fighting illegal immigration and responding to natural disasters.
During confirmation hearings last month, Johnson pledged to try to create unity in a department notorious for lacking it.
“I hope to be a visible leader [and] remind people of the importance of the overriding, unifying mission of homeland security,” he testified.
In a sign of lingering battles over Senate confirmation rules, Republicans protested the effort to move to a vote on Johnson’s top lieutenant, Alejandro Mayorkas, forcing rarely required procedural moves to set up votes this week on that nomination and others.