Mayorkas gets new chief of staff with political battle skills

Jonathan Davidson, who has served as the assistant secretary for legislative affairs at the Department of Treasury for more than two years, is moving to another high-profile perch within the Biden administration.

Davidson will serve as chief of staff to Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, who informed DHS staffers of the move in an email Thursday, POLITICO has learned. He’ll replace former chief of staff Kristie Canegallo, who was tapped last month as Mayorkas’ acting deputy secretary after John Tien announced his retirement.

“In a career spanning 25 years in both the Executive and Legislative branches, Jonathan has been a trusted advisor and proven leader at the highest levels of government,” Mayorkas wrote in the email to staff.

A long time Senate aide, Davidson served as chief of staff to Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) prior to joining the Biden administration in 2021. With the prime legislative window for Biden and Democrats having essentially closed after Republicans took back control of the House last November, Davidson’s Hill experience is being redirected, possibly to defend oversight by House Republicans, some of whom have called to impeach Mayorkas.

Republicans have blamed Mayorkas for the administration’s border policies, but they currently lack the votes necessary to bring articles of impeachment against him to the floor. That could change as conservatives continue lobbying their colleagues in hopes of fulfilling a promise to the party’s base.

At Treasury, Davidson oversaw a historic period of legislative accomplishments and the implementation of landmark laws — the distribution of Covid relief checks in 2021 following the passage of the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan and, following the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act in 2022, the creation of tax incentives for green energy projects. Additionally, Mayorkas noted, Davidson “worked on a range of national security issues, including the Administration’s efforts in response to Russia’s attack on Ukraine and its push to diversify global supply chains.”

“Jonathan’s political judgment has helped us navigate some of our department’s biggest priorities,” Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said in a statement. “From debt limit impasses to Inflation Reduction Act implementation, Jonathan has been a trusted advisor and he will be sorely missed.”

Beyond Mayorkas’ inner circle, DHS has had multiple senior officials retire in recent months. In early June, acting Immigration and Customs Enforcement director Tae Johnson announced his retirement, just a week after Border Patrol Chief Raul Ortiz said he was stepping down.

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