“I'm extremely disturbed by the responses to the questionnaire, because the staff both -- either the legislative staff or the White House -- has cut and pasted identical answers to 23 questions in your form -- in your response – identical responses to that of other nominees before this committee,” Sen. Tom Coburn said in his opening remarks.
“So they're not you're answers,” Coburn said. “They're their answers.”
The questionnaire – approved by both Democrats and Republicans on the committee – contains 94 questions, including many with subsections requiring answers.
Coburn produced side-by-side comparisons of Johnson's answers with those given by other administration officials, ranging from former DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano to a Customs and Border Protection official. In many cases, the responses were identical.
“And -- and the shoddy work associated with that is -- does not serve the committee well,” Coburn. “And I'd like to enter these into the record now to show the duplications and exact words that have been thrown before this committee before.
“And the whole purpose for questionnaire is for we to get your thoughts, not a legislative assistant's thought at Homeland Security or somebody at OMB's thoughts, but your thoughts,” Coburn said.
“So until those are corrected and we actually have Mr. Johnson's response, I will not consider that his questionnaire has been completed,” Coburn said.
Because the remarks were part of Coburn’s opening statement, Johnson did not respond to what the senator said.
Committee Chairman Sen. Thomas Carper (D-Del.), defended Johnson, but did tell the nominee to “edit” the cut-and-pasted questions that Coburn highlighted.
“I think you had over 100 questions to answer and a lot of those questions are multi-part,” Carper said. “Some of those questions I don’t expect you to be able to answer and it’s not surprising you wouldn’t rely on, to some extent, on the folks who are at the department and their job is to help nominees.
“I would just ask you to go back through the information, the questions that Dr. Coburn is going to send to you,” Carper said. “Go through them, edit them, just mark them up and get them back to him promptly and we can move forward.”
Coburn, despite his disappointment with Johnson's cut-and-pasting, also said in his opening remarks that he believes Johnson will be confirmed as the next DHS Secretary.