Biden labor secretary pick grilled by House Republicans as nomination stuck in limbo

julie su testifies
UNITED STATES – JUNE 7: Julie Su, right, acting labor secretary, greets Chairwoman Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., and ranking member Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va., during the House Education and the Workforce Committee hearing titled “Examining the Policies and Priorities of the Department of Labor,” in Rayburn Building on Wednesday, June 7, 2023. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call via AP Images) Tom Williams/AP

Biden labor secretary pick grilled by House Republicans as nomination stuck in limbo

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Acting Labor Secretary Julie Su, whose nomination to lead the agency permanently is in limbo, faced tough questions from House Republicans on Wednesday.

GOP lawmakers zeroed in on what they saw as her agency’s lack of cooperation with the House panel’s request for information and reports of child labor violations involving immigrants, among other matters, on Wednesday.

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Su appeared before the Education and the Workforce Committee for nearly four hours after being repeatedly asked to testify by Chairwoman Virginia Foxx (R-NC). Foxx began her opening remarks to air her frustration after Su attempted to cancel her testimony last week but reversed course after she was threatened with a subpoena.

“This hearing is not about you or your pending nomination. It is about assessing the budget proposal for the Department of Labor and the department’s performance and its adherence to its statutory mandate,” Foxx said at the beginning of the hearing.

“Your effort to evade transparency at the eleventh hour calls into question your ability to fulfill your duty as a potential secretary of labor. You are sitting here today only because I informed you that I would issue a subpoena to compel your attendance at this previously agreed-to hearing and you reconsidered your cancellation,” Foxx added.

Su sidestepped a yes-or-no question from the chairwoman about whether the agency intends to respond to future requests but said she respected the committee’s intention to conduct oversight.

The purpose of Su’s testimony was supposed to be on a White House proposal that would raise the Labor Department’s budget by $1.5 billion. However, Republicans on the panel utilized their time to dig into the array of issues raised by opponents of her nomination to become labor secretary instead of the spending plan.

GOP members of the panel asserted the agency was not responding properly to reports that a growing number of companies are employing children, particularly immigrants, and emphasized the problem stems from a failure to curb illegal immigration.

Rep. Jim Banks (R-IN) called it “the biggest humanitarian crisis in American history” and claimed Su and the department repeatedly ignored signs and warnings it was happening and that it shows a “night and day” contrast to the Trump administration’s approach.

“Why is your department ignoring hundreds of thousands of children illegally in the workplace, working in unsafe conditions? What are you doing about it,” Banks asked, raising his voice.

Su responded that the department has launched a task force with the Department of Health and Human Services to tackle the problem while stressing the need for more funding for enforcement.

“This is also related to our budget request, which is to make sure that the Department of Labor has the resources to investigate those cases,” Su said.

Democrats on the panel defended Su’s record and said the Senate should confirm her as labor secretary.

“Committee Democrats and I support Secretary Su’s nomination to become secretary of labor because she represents the best of America,” said Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA), the top Democrat on the committee. “We support acting Secretary Su’s nomination not just because of who she is but for what she has done.”

“She is a committed public servant who has dedicated her career to supporting workers and families,” Scott added, later accusing Republicans of “pounding the table” because they didn’t have meaningful criticism of the acting secretary.

President Joe Biden nominated Su in late February to take over as labor secretary, and she’s been temporarily filling the role after former Secretary Marty Walsh left in March. However, her nomination has not come to the floor for a vote. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) did not answer questions from reporters on Wednesday about whether he plans to hold a vote on her nomination.

“Look, she’s a great nominee, and we are going to do everything we can to help her get confirmed,” Schumer said.

Centrist and independent senators are still weighing whether to support Su’s nomination. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) told the Biden administration he has deep reservations about her, according to sources with knowledge of the matter. Manchin’s opposition, combined with one other Democratic defection, could halt Su’s confirmation. She needs at least 50 votes in the Senate, in which Democrats have a slim 51-49 hold over Republicans. It’s unclear where other Democratic centrists, such as Sens. Mark Kelly (D-AZ) or Jon Tester (D-MT) and Angus King (I-ME), stand on Su’s nomination. Manchin, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (I-AZ), King, Kelly, and Tester all supported her for the deputy post in 2021.

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Su’s nomination passed out of committee this April with no Republican votes and has languished ever since. Republican senators who voted against her nomination in committee took issue with her treatment of independent contractors and said she had not established good enough relationships with the business community as California’s labor secretary. Several also highlighted the amount of fraud in the unemployment program in California during the pandemic.

© 2023 Washington Examiner

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