Policy: Labor

Senate committee postpones vote on labor secretary nominee Perez

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Politics,Beltway Confidential,Sean Higgins,Senate,Labor

The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee announced today that it was postponing Thursday’s vote on the White House’s nominee to be Labor Secretary, Thomas Perez. It had been scheduled for tomorrow afternoon, but has been rescheduled for May 16.

No explanation was given for the postponement, but Perez has been a controversial choice. He was a zealous liberal activist while in his current job as the Justice Department’s top civil rights enforcer. His Republican critics have been highlighting an unusual quid pro quo deal he arranged with the city of St. Paul, Minn. Perez arranged to get the federal government to drop out of two cases pending against city. In exchange, the city dropped a case it was pursuing that could have let the Supreme Court clarify when the legal theory of “disparate impact” could be used in civil rights cases. Perez is a staunch advocate of the theory, which holds that it is not necessary to show an intent to discriminate to prove such a case. Republicans allege Perez tried to hide the fact that he was making the deal from others in the government.

Earlier this week, Republicans, including Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, released letters in which they alleged that Perez did not respond to congressional subpoenas that he turn over private emails that relate to his Justice Department work. Republicans believe that administration officials are using private accounts to circumvent government transparency laws. The letters allege that Perez allowed only 34 of about 1,200 relevant emails to be viewed by congressional investigators at DOJ headquarters.

“We are concerned about compliance with the Federal Records Act and this apparent pattern of use of personal e-mail,” said Reps. Frank Wolf, R-Va., and Andy Harris, R-Md., in one letter. They note that Attorney General Eric Holder personally told a congressional hearing that Perez had complied with the subpoena.

Perez was previously expected to be approved by the Senate committee  today, although it was likely to be a party-line vote.  White House spokesman Jay Carney today accused Republicans of “politicizing” the nomination. “It doesn’t serve the American people well,” he said.

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