The top Republican on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), predicted the confirmation of Johnson, a litigation partner in the Washington office of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison.
"When you're confirmed—I'm not going to say if, I think you're going to be confirmed—I surely hope we can work together through the upcoming years to fix the Department of Homeland Security where it's broken and make our nation must more secure," Coburn said.
At a committee hearing today, Coburn praised Johnson's reputation as a trustworthy and honorable man, as well as his intelligence. "It’s far above mine and most of the members of Congress, which is what you want," Coburn said.
Committee Chairman Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) said Johnson received high praise from a full spectrum of top national security officials. The last three Homeland Security secretaries—Tom Ridge, Covington & Burling senior counsel Michael Chertoff and Janet Napolitano—touted him in a letter as an "eminently qualified nominee."
Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates wrote that Johnson "has successfully managed an array of major initiatives across the biggest bureaucracy in the government, and in so doing won the esteem of virtually everyone with whom he worked."
Former federal judge and U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey, now a partner at Debevoise & Plimpton in New York, also wrote in support of Johnson's nomination.
"Jeh Johnson will bring not only experience but also a frame of mind that should be a source of assurance to anyone concerned with the security of this country," Carper said, quoting from Mukasey’s letter. "He understands both the issues and the stakes and would make an excellent secretary."
President Obama, in remarks in October about Johnson, highlighted his experience at the Defense Department during two administrations, and his "willingness to implement complex and dramatic policy changes." Johnson co-authored a report that defused the controversy allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly, part of the movement to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell in 2010.
Johnson was a litigation partner for two decades at Paul Weiss, and was general counsel of the Air Force during the Clinton administration. He was a policy adviser and top fundraiser for Obama's 2008 campaign.