Labor Pick Acosta Gets OK From Senate Committee

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By Tyrone Richardson

A Senate committee March 30 approved Alexander Acosta’s nomination to run the Labor Department, setting up a full Senate vote in coming days.

The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee approved Acosta for the post in a 12-11 vote along party lines.

It wasn’t immediately known whether the Senate would schedule a full floor vote before a two-week recess that starts April 10. Republicans said they’d like to get a labor secretary confirmed soon to make up for the time lost before fast-food executive Andrew Puzder withdrew his nomination.

An aide for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told Bloomberg BNA March 30 that he didn’t have any scheduling announcements about a full floor vote.

HELP chairman Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) lauded the committee’s recommendation for the nomination.

“The Secretary of Labor should really be called the Secretary of the Workforce because the issue for workers today is not whether they belong to a union, it is whether they have the skills to adapt to the changing marketplace and to create, find, or keep good-paying jobs,” Alexander said in a statement. “We are fortunate to have a presidential nominee for Labor Secretary who understands how a good-paying job is critical to helping workers realize the American dream for themselves and for their families.”

Acosta is expected to be confirmed with at least some Democratic support. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) has told Bloomberg BNA that he supports the nomination. Nelson represents Acosta’s home state of Florida.

Democrats Voice Opposition

HELP committee ranking Democrat Patty Murray (Wash.) spoke prior to the March 30 vote, telling the panel that she couldn’t support Acosta’s nomination.

“I’m glad this is not Andrew Puzder,” Murray said. But she added that she was “deeply concerned that this nominee does not show willingness to stand up to” the Trump administration and stand up for “the rights of workers.”

Murray’s comments came a day after she released a written statement saying she would vote against the nomination because Acosta “deferred to the President and refused to take a strong stand on critical issues including expanding overtime pay to more workers, fighting for equal pay, and advocating for investments in job training and other key priorities of the Department of Labor.”

The March 30 vote also comes a week after the HELP committee held a confirmation hearing for Acosta. Although he dodged several questions about specific policy positions during the March 22 hearing, Acosta did say he was open to updating overtime eligibility requirements.

Acosta also wouldn’t commit to supporting the fiduciary rule, which the department is currently in the process of delaying to comply with a directive from President Donald Trump.

Some Republican members of the committee told Bloomberg BNA earlier this week that they supported Acosta because he was qualified for the post.

Acosta previously has been confirmed by the Senate three different times, including for jobs as a Justice Department official and as a National Labor Relations Board member.

To contact the reporter on this story: Tyrone Richardson in Washington at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Peggy Aulino at; Terence Hyland at; Christopher Opfer at

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