Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., surprised the head of Homeland Security on Wednesday when, after a tough exchange over Second Amendment rights, he gave him a pat on the shoulder and a firm handshake on his way out.
Kennedy questioned Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas at a Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing about his support for an assault weapons ban, a day after he had quizzed him on the same subject and had been unsatisfied with his answers.
Mayorkas again backed an assault weapons ban and deferred to the definition previously in legislation banning such weapons in the 1990s — but he did not provide one of his own.
‘Senator, I must defer to the experts with respect to the definition. But I will tell you, for example, military-style weapons are a tremendous concern. We are seeing too much devastation,’ he said, speaking just days after a school shooting in Nashville, Tenn.
Kennedy was unhappy with the answer.
‘You made a very bold statement very firmly saying we should ban all assault weapons. And all I’m asking is what in your mind is an assault weapon? You say it’s military style. Does that mean it looks like a military weapon?’ he said.
Mayorkas was done however: ‘Senator, I think I have addressed your question to the best of my abilities.’
But Kennedy continued.
‘But you haven’t. I’m trying to understand. You’re secretary of the Department of Homeland Security and, as is your right as an American, you believe we should ban assault weapons. But it bothers me you can’t tell me what you would ban,’ he said.
Mayorkas later said he had come to ‘testify to this committee and not take an examination with respect to questions that I have already answered to the best of my ability.’
After the tough questioning, Mayorkas turned to Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., who asked about temporary worker visas.
As Mayorkas was answering the question, Kennedy approached him from behind, patted him on the shoulder and shook his hand firmly — appearing to add ‘Thank you for your service.’
Mayorkas appeared somewhat startled by the unusual move, but thanked him, before saying ‘excuse me’ to Sen. Shaheen and continuing his remarks.
The moment marked a brief friendly gesture amid what has been a battering for Mayorkas by Republican lawmakers in both the House and the Senate who have expressed their fury about the ongoing migrant crisis at the southern border and the flow of fentanyl into the U.S.
Multiple lawmakers told Mayorkas he should resign or be fired, while Sen. Ted Cruz accused him of being ‘willing to allow children to be raped to follow political orders.’
Mayorkas immediately slammed the remarks as ‘revolting’ and a DHS spokesperson later followed up with a statement backing the secretary after the particularly angry exchange.
‘Secretary Mayorkas is proud to advance the noble mission of this Department, support its extraordinary workforce, and serve the American people. The Department will continue to enforce our laws and secure our border, protect the nation from terrorism, improve our cybersecurity, all while building a safe, orderly, and humane immigration system. Instead of pointing fingers, Congress should work with the Department and pass legislation to fix our broken immigration system, which has not been updated in over 40 years,’ the spokesperson said.