Sen. Chuck Schumer called White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough this morning to urge that President Obama nominate New York Police Department Commissioner Ray Kelly as Homeland Security Secretary.
DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano announced Friday that she is stepping down to head the University of California system.
“The Department of Homeland Security is one of the most important agencies in the federal government,” Schumer said in a statement Friday. “It’s leader needs to be someone who knows law enforcement, understands anti-terrorism efforts, and is a top-notch administrator, and at the NYPD, Ray Kelly has proven that he excels in all three.”
McDonough’s response was noncommital, an aide said. White House spokesman Jay Carney said it would be “far too premature” to speculate on Napolitano’s successor.
Kelly’s tough cop reputation could make him a relatively popular choice with Republicans.
Schumer is a leading advocate of a Senate immigration reform bill. And his pushing Kelly drove speculation that the pick could help advance the bill with House Republicans addressing GOP concerns about the administration’s committment to follow through on border security measures in the bill.
But an aide said the politics of the immigration reform fight did not factor in Schumer’s thinking in suggesting Kelly.
Schumer has promoted Kelly for other posts. In 2011, he told the Daily News the White House should consider Kelly for FBI director.
Kelly’s association with New York’s controversial stop-and-frisk program and his defense of so-called “Muslim spying” by the department would be a problem with the left if he was nominated.
Any mention of Kelly for the job also draws references to President George W. Bush’s disastrous nomination of former NYPD boss Bernard Kerik for the job.
Schumer noted that Kelly’s experience as former head of Customs and Border Patrol gives him “top-level federal management experience.”
“There is no doubt Ray Kelly would be a great DHS Secretary, and I have urged the White House to very seriously consider his candidacy, “Schumer’s statment continues. “While it would be New York’s loss, Commissioner Kelly’s appointment as the head of DHS would be a great boon for the entire country. Janet Napolitano has done an outstanding job, and if I had to give her a grade on her tenure, it would be ‘A+’. We need someone just as good who can fill her shoes.”
Former House Homeland Security Chairman Peter King (R-L.I.) also touted Kelly for the job Friday.
King cited Kelly’s current work running an agency of about 50,000 experence as CBP chief and as an assistant Treasury secretary.
“You need someone who knows how to fight and win bureaucratic battles, and manage a bureaucracy,” King said.
-With Joseph Straw