WASHINGTON—The Senate earlier today approved the controversial nomination of Thomas Perez as the next labor secretary.
Senators voted to confirm Perez's nomination on a strictly party-line vote, 54-46, days after the GOP agreed to let several presidential nominees come up for a vote. Republicans have been blocking Perez's nomination since President Barack Obama appointed him in March, citing his tumultuous tenure as head of the civil rights division at the Department of Justice.
“Mr. Perez does not have the temperament or the competence we need as Secretary of the Department of Labor,” Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said in a Senate floor speech.
Only days before Perez was nominated, the U.S. Inspector General released a blistering 258-page report that accused him of unethical and unprofessional conduct, being highly political in carrying out his responsibilities, and giving misleading public testimony.
Republicans were particularly incensed that Perez chose not to pursue a case against the city of St. Paul, Minn., that could have won American taxpayers as much as $200 million. Perez acknowledged and defended his decision to decline the case, a deal he brokered with city officials so they would drop a separate suit dealing with housing discrimination.
In April, 43 House Republicans sent a letter to the Senate opposing Perez, who they noted formerly worked for an organization that trained illegal immigrants on how to avoid detainment. He is also accused of conducting public business from his personal email accounts—out of reach Freedom of Information Act requests.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., called Perez a “crusading ideologue” whose convictions lead him to bend the rules to achieve his ends. “As Secretary of Labor, Mr. Perez would be handling numerous contentious issues and implementing many politically sensitive laws,” McConnell said Thursday. “Americans of all political persuasions have a right to expect that the head of such an important federal department, whether appointed by a Republican or a Democrat, would implement—and follow—the law in a fair and reasonable way.”
Perez has also come under fire for filing frivolous lawsuits against voter ID laws and pro-lifers he allegedly wants to silence. He bragged that his tenure as assistant attorney general includes some 20 investigations under the Freedom of Access to (abortion) Clinic Entrances Act, compared to only one suit filed during the Bush administration.
Perez, 51, will replace Hilda Solis, who resigned as labor secretary in January.