Acosta Confirmed as Labor Secretary

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By Tyrone Richardson and Louis C. LaBrecque

The Senate April 27 confirmed Alexander Acosta as labor secretary, the latest chapter in what has been a slow process to name and confirm political appointees in the Trump administration.

The members voted 60-38 in favor of confirming Acosta, a Florida International University law dean who was confirmed for three different jobs in the George W. Bush administration.

Acosta is the 27th Senate-confirmed DOL secretary. He’s expected to be sworn in as early as April 27 at the White House, followed by a meeting with staffers at the DOL headquarters.

Acosta replaces Edward Hugler, who has been acting secretary of labor since Feb. 2. Republicans have been eager to get a labor secretary in place to make up for time lost after fast-food executive Andrew Puzder withdrew his nomination in February.

Acosta to Address Obama-Era Regulations

Acosta is expected to act quickly to address some Obama-era regulations that Republican lawmakers are seeking to reverse. Among them is the fiduciary rule limiting conflicts of interest for retirement investment advisers and a delayed rule to expand overtime eligibility for workers.

Despite some Democratic support for Acosta's confirmation, leadership such as Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee ranking member Patty Murray (Wash.) criticized the nominee during the Senate floor debate April 26. Murray said she believed Acosta would not stand up to political pressure from the Trump administration.

“I have serious concerns given Mr. Acosta’s professional history about whether undue political pressure would impact decision-making at the department,” she said then.

Murray’s comments were followed April 27 by HELP chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.).

“Mr. Acosta has excellent credentials and is well-qualified for this position,” Alexander said hours prior to the full Senate vote. “He understands that a good-paying job is critical to helping workers realize the American Dream for themselves and for their families.”

Slower Pace for Political Appointments

President Donald Trump’s pace for making political appointments in his first 100 days lags well behind other recent presidents.

That’s from the nonprofit Partnership for Public Service, which tracked the administration’s nomination activity and has compiled figures comparing the new administration’s progress with that of the previous four presidents.

Trump had nominated 66 people for administration positions and had 26 of them confirmed by the Senate as of April 26, the partnership said. The Senate’s approval of Acosta on April 27 adds one more Cabinet-level confirmation to the list. Trump’s 100th day in office is April 29.

The numbers for previous presidents during the first 100 days were as follows: • Barack Obama—190 nominations, 69 confirmed; • George W. Bush—85 nominations, 35 confirmed; • Bill Clinton—176 nominations, 49 confirmed; and • George H.W. Bush—95 nominations, 50 confirmed.

The partnership’s Center for Presidential Transition says it helped both Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton prepare for office after the two major political parties selected their presidential nominees last year by providing resources “to help them navigate the transition process and be ready to govern on day one.”

`Ramping Up’ in Recent Days

The administration appears to be “ramping up” its selection of political appointees in recent days, Kristine Simmons, vice president of government affairs at the partnership, told Bloomberg BNA April 25. “Every administration wants to do things differently,” she said. “It seems like they’ve gotten their sea legs.”

Becky Norton Dunlop, a fellow at the Heritage Foundation who was deputy assistant for presidential personnel in the Reagan administration, told Bloomberg BNA April 26 that Heritage has sent more than 3,000 personnel recommendations to the Trump administration. The Heritage Foundation is a Washington-based group that supports limited government.

“We are very interested and very concerned” that the new administration powers up quickly, Dunlop said.

One reason why the pace of presidential appointments may not match previous administrations is that there’s a much smaller White House staff working on the process, Dunlop said.

Another is that the president “has tried to be very collegial with his Cabinet appointees,” she said.

“Instead of filling all the jobs, which he could do, he’s filling the top jobs” and letting them pick other appointees, Dunlop said. In addition, the kinds of people that the new president is picking for political posts generally are not insiders familiar with the process of clearing obstacles to federal service, Dunlop said.

This wasn’t as much of a problem for the past four presidents, Dunlop said. They were “Washington insiders” who picked other insiders for Cabinet posts.

To contact the reporters on this story: Tyrone Richardson in Washington at trichardson@bna.com; Louis C. LaBrecque in Washington at llabrecque@bna.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Peggy Aulino at maulino@bna.com; Terence Hyland at thyland@bna.com; Christopher Opfer at copfer@bna.com

Copyright © 2017 The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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