In a crisp 30 minutes, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee approved the nomination of Thomas Perez Thursday morning to be the new labor secretary. The vote was 12-10, along party lines.
Chairman Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, said there was “no question” that Perez would be an outstanding pick for the role and scolded Republicans for holding up the vote, which had been originally set for last week, calling it “delay for delay’s sake.”
Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., likewise defended him, noting he had been endorsed by the Maryland Chamber of Commerce. “Which is a typical chamber of commerce,” she added.
Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., the committee's ranking Republican, countered that Perez had not been responsive to Republican requests for information on his actions in his current job as assistant attorney general for civil rights. There were lingering questions on the unusual deal he struck with the city of St. Paul, Minn.
“Providing completely redacted emails can’t be considered responsive,” Alexander said.
The senator drew laughter when noted that he knew of a highly qualified nominee for a Cabinet position who had to wait 87 days for his confirmation.
Republicans, in the minority in the Senate, were resigned to losing this round, though. ”I can count, so I know what the result of this election will be,” said Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C.
After the vote, Harkin said: “There being 12 ayes and 10 nays, the nomination of Thomas Perez to be labor secretary is reported favorably to the Senate.”
“Ha!” said a fan of Perez in the audience.