GOP Sen. Rick Scott pledges to block cyber nominee until Joe Biden visits U.S.-Mexico border


President Biden’s pick for the administration’s top cyber position hit a roadblock from Republican Sen. Rick Scott, who threatened to halt the confirmation process until Mr. Biden visits the southern border.

The nominations of Jen Easterly to lead the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) and John C. Inglis to serve as the country’s first national cyber director sailed through the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on Wednesday by a voice vote. But Mr. Scott of Florida said he would put a hold on Ms. Easterly over concerns about the migrant crisis at the border.

The hold is a parliamentary procedure whereby any senator can block a motion from reaching the Senate floor. Similar to a filibuster, the Senate can break a hold with a cloture vote, but that is time-consuming and must clear a 60-vote threshold.

“I clearly support Jen Easterly to be the director of CISA, she’s got the right background to be able to do the job, [and] it has no reflection on her nomination, but I’m going to hold all nominations including hers until the president visits the border,” Mr. Scott said at a committee meeting on Wednesday. “I think the president needs to visit the border and tell us how he’s going to address the crisis.”

Mr. Scott previously pledged to hold all Department of Homeland Security nominations until Mr. Biden visits the southern border. The department oversees CISA but not Mr. Inglis’ new position. Mr. Scott’s office said he was not putting a similar hold on Mr. Inglis’ nomination.  

The needling of Mr. Biden’s policy on the southern border rankled Sen. Tom Carper, Delaware Democrat.

“I would just note that President Biden, formerly Vice President Biden, formerly Senator Biden has probably been to the U.S.-Mexican border more than anybody that serves on this committee,” Mr. Carper said. “And my guess is he’ll go again.”

Mr. Biden formerly served as a senator from Delaware.

The new hurdles for Ms. Easterly’s nomination come as the federal government is working to develop a federal cyber strategy amid a flood of ransomware cyberattacks and hacks that have compromised federal networks.

Sen. Angus King, Maine independent who caucuses with Senate Democrats, has described the positions Mr. Inglis and Ms. Easterly would serve as the equivalent to the secretary of defense and the joint chiefs of staff in the cyber domain.

CISA is overseen by acting Director Brandon Wales, who took the agency’s helm after former President Trump fired its previous director, Chris Krebs, over a dispute about the security of the 2020 election.

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