Senate OKs New Homeland Security Chief Jeh C. Johnson confirmed with help from new filibuster rules By Newser Editors and Wire Services Posted Dec 17, 2013 8:19 AM CST 11 comments Comments In this Nov. 13, 2013 file photo, Jeh Johnson testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing on his nomination. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File) (Newser) – Democrats used their newly initiated lower threshold for defeating filibusters yesterday to win Senate confirmation of President Obama's nomination of former top Pentagon lawyer Jeh C. Johnson to be secretary of Homeland Security. On a 57-37 vote, Democrats broke a GOP blockade against Johnson before the Senate minutes later confirmed him on a 78-16 vote. Until Democrats unilaterally changed the Senate's filibuster threshold on presidential nominations, it would have taken 60 votes to clear Johnson for a final vote. Anne W. Patterson, currently the US ambassador to Egypt and formerly ambassador to Pakistan, also won confirmation yesterday to become assistant secretary of state in charge of Near Eastern affairs. She also was confirmed 78-16, with all of the "no" votes coming from Republicans. A career diplomat, Patterson entered the State Department's foreign service in 1973. Johnson is replacing Janet Napolitano as head of Homeland Security. About 40% of the senior leadership positions are now vacant, and Johnson said filling those posts was among his top priorities.