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Senate approves Johnson to head U.S. Homeland Security

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[December 17, 2013]  WASHINGTON (Reuters)  The U.S. Senate on Monday confirmed Jeh Johnson, a national security expert who has served as the Pentagon's top lawyer, as head of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Johnson, who was the Defense Department's general counsel during President Barack Obama's first term, will succeed Janet Napolitano, who left in September to become the president of the University of California system.

The Senate approved Johnson on a vote of 78-16 as part of a raft of confirmations pushed forward after a recent rule change stripped Republicans of their power to block nominees with a procedural roadblock known as a filibuster.

Obama said in a statement that he was pleased that Johnson was confirmed with broad bipartisan support.

"Jeh will play a leading role in our efforts to protect the homeland against terrorist attacks, adapt to changing threats, stay prepared for natural disasters, strengthen our border security, and make our immigration system fairer  while upholding the values, civil liberties, and laws that make America great," he said.

The Senate also confirmed Anne Patterson, the U.S. ambassador to Egypt, as an assistant secretary of state for near eastern affairs. Like Johnson, she was approved by a vote of 78-16.

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The Senate is also expected this week to confirm Janet Yellen as chair of the Federal Reserve, before it recesses for the year. Yellen is now the Fed's vice chair.

(Reporting by Deborah Charles and Thomas Ferraro; editing by Christopher Wilson and Andre Grenon)

[ 2013 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.]

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