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By Ben Penn
June 22 — Labor Secretary Thomas Perez is refusing to address rumors that he is being vetted as Hillary Clinton's running mate, but that's not stopping him from calling on the next president to advance this administration's policies.
“I believe the question before us is whether we can sustain and scale this progress that we've made in the Obama administration or whether we're going to turn the clock back,” Perez said at a National Press Club event June 22.
“I am confident that as we approach this crossroad and choose our path,” the current administration's progress will continue, the labor secretary said in concluding his speech.
Perez has been campaigning for presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Clinton in his personal time but delivered his remarks in his official capacity as labor secretary. His position precludes him from commenting on election specifics, he said.
However, he touched on what is at stake for voters in November.
Perez compared naysayers who want to repeal Obama administration initiatives to the mid-19th century Know-Nothing Party. The Know-Nothings were anti-immigrant, and that is anti-American, which is why the movement failed, he said.
Perez has said on previous occasions, when speaking in his personal capacity in support of Clinton, that presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump reminds him of the Know-Nothing Party.
Perez was included in a list of nine names on the Democratic vice presidential shortlist leaked to the media last week. Asked repeatedly by a Press Club moderator whether he is being vetted or what advice he'd offer to the Clinton campaign, Perez insisted he is squarely focused on his current job.
Before being sworn in to his current job in 2013, Perez served in the Obama administration as assistant attorney general for civil rights at the Justice Department.
When queried about what his next job will be, Perez said: “I have no idea. One of the things that I don’t like about Washington is when people who have the privilege of doing jobs like this immediately pivot to ‘how do I leverage this to my next job?' ”
Instead of answering questions about the 2016 election, Perez highlighted the strides employees have seen under President Barack Obama in general and from Labor Department regulations more specifically.
He noted the DOL rules finalized this year—overtime, fiduciary and silica—all of which he said help ensure workers' prosperity.
These rules signal the Obama administration's commitment to use “every tool in our toolkit to make change,” Perez said. This regulatory-focused approach has been forced upon the White House because “regrettably, we have not had a dance partner in the Republican Congress,” he said.
GOP members are in the midst of attempting to block the overtime and fiduciary regulations via long-shot legislative challenges.
If a Republican is elected president this fall, the executive branch could repeal the DOL's new regulations or soften their enforcement.
To contact the reporter on this story: Ben Penn in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Susan J. McGolrick at email@example.com
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