Policy: Labor

Senate narrowly ends debate on Obama nominee for Labor secretary

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Beltway Confidential,Steve Contorno,Senate,Labor,Analysis,Thomas Perez

By the narrowest of margins, the Senate voted Wednesday to end debate on the nomination of Thomas Perez to head the Labor Department, clearing the way for his confirmation.

The 60-40 vote prevents further GOP delays of Perez, who was tapped by President Obama in March to replace Hilda Solis as Labor secretary. Perez, who now just needs 51 votes to be confirmed, is now an assistant U.S. attorney general in the civil rights division.

Perez was one of seven Obama nominations Republicans promised not to hold up any longer as part of an 11th-hour deal struck Tuesday with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. Reid had threatened to break Senate rules, virtually gut the filibuster and prevent any more Republican procedural delays of Obama's nominees. But after Republicans agreed to advance five long-delayed nominees, Obama agreed to withdraw two nominees to the National Labor Relations Board and replaced them with new candidates.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., was adamant until the last moment in fighting the nomination of Perez, who many conservatives still consider a controversial pick, but was ultimately overruled by six Republican colleagues who voted with 52 Democrats and two independents to advance Perez.

“You are about to vote to give 60 votes and cut off debate on a nominee that has ignored a congressional subpoena from the House on information relevant to his background and to his qualifications for this office,” Rubio warned.

Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, said Rubio’s assertion was “absolutely wrong.”

The Senate Judiciary Committee approved Perez 17-2 back in June.

Just before acting on Perez, the Senate voted 82-17 to name Fred Hochberg as head of the Export-Import Bank.

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