Acosta Labor Confirmation Hearing Set for March 15

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By Tyrone Richardson and Chris Opfer

Labor secretary nominee Alexander Acosta is scheduled for a Senate confirmation hearing March 15.The Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee will take up Acosta’s nomination just one month after previous nominee Andrew Puzder withdrew from consideration amid swirling controversy, a HELP committee staffer told Bloomberg BNA March 8.

Acosta this week formally filed his disclosure paperwork with the HELP committee and the independent Office of Government Ethics. These are the necessary documents required for the HELP hearing. If the committee approves him, Acosta’s name goes to the Senate floor for a simple majority vote.

The former Justice Department official and National Labor Relations Board member is widely considered a more moderate selection than Puzder and is already seeing a warmer reception from some labor unions and Democrats.

Senate Reserving Opinions

Acosta’s confirmation is expected to receive strong support from Republicans who are seeking an ally to help them undo some regulations from the Obama administration, including a pending rule to expand overtime pay eligibility to some 4 million workers.

Some Republicans, such as Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), chairman of the HELP Committee’s Employment and Workplace Safety Subcommittee, have publicly voiced support for Acosta’s nomination.

Other Republicans and Democrats on the HELP committee have declined to take a position on the nominee until they hear his views. That includes Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), who told Bloomberg BNA March 7 that he is scheduled to meet with Acosta later this week.

The nominee was on Capitol Hill March 8 meeting with some lawmakers, including Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska).

Murkowski told Bloomberg BNA Mar. 7 that she wouldn’t comment about Acosta until she heard his views during their meeting. Officials at the senator’s office did not respond to Bloomberg BNA’s request for comment after the March 8 meeting.

The one-on-one meetings with senators—an effort to drum up support prior to a confirmation hearing—are common practice for cabinet nominees.

Acosta Supported Republican Political Campaigns

The HELP disclosure documents show Acosta gave $2,000 to President Donald Trump’s campaign and $2,700 to Jeb Bush’s (R-Fla.) presidential bid. The documents also show $2,500 for Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign in 2012 and $1,550 to Ted Cruz’s (R-Texas) senate campaign that year. The ethics office disclosure documents are scheduled to be posted later this week, Senate officials told Bloomberg BNA.

Acosta’s performance during the March 15 hearing will be closely watched by elected officials such as Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), who is not a HELP member. Blumenthal told Bloomberg BNA March 8 that he was declining to take a stance until then.

“At this point, I’m waiting to see what he has to say during the hearing,” he said.

Acosta Continues Trump’s Tone?

Even though they are not voting on the confirmation, some Democrats on the House Workforce committee told Bloomberg BNA that they are skeptical about Acosta.

That includes members such as Rep. Mark Takano (D-Calif.), who said Acosta will follow Trump’s orders.

“Mr. Acosta has accepted the nomination and that means he will implement the anti-worker and anti-consumer agenda,” Takano said. “I don’t see him reversing the congressional review act and bills that have gone on the floor, and I don’t see him saying we need the fiduciary rule and need to pay more workers overtime by raising that threshold.”

Rep. Raul M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) said that even though Acosta is “not as controversial as Puzder,” he will get the same level of scrutiny.

If he reflects any “of those anti-labor, anti-regulation and anti-worker protections” he will not get Democratic support, he said.

“He’s got the same test that the other guy had,” Grijalva said.

To contact the reporters on this story: Tyrone Richardson in Washington at trichardson@bna.com; Chris Opfer in New York at copfer@bna.com

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

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