Assistant Attorney General Tom Perez's bid to be the next Labor secretary might have passed the first hurdle in the Senate, but Republicans are still strongly opposed to the nomination.
The U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions voted Thursday to move Perez's nomination to the full Senate for consideration. The committee vote was delayed twice by Republicans, who said they wanted more information about Perez. Critics have hinted at the possibility of using a filibuster to block a confirmation vote before the full Senate.
The 12-10 vote yesterday was along party lines, with several Republicans noting their objections. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), the committee's ranking member, said he was troubled by a review of Perez's actions as chief of the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division since 2009. An recent DOJ inspector general's report found politics in the division was affecting the division from working efficiently.
Alexander also said he did not like Perez’s handling of a Minnesota federal whistleblower case, which has been the subject of a report by several Republican members of Congress and a House hearing. Republicans contend DOJ walked away from the case in exchange for the city of St. Paul dropping an unrelated challenge in the U.S. Supreme Court.
"The president knew when the he nominated Mr. Perez that Congress was investigating his involvement in brokering the quid pro quo deal in St. Paul, Minnesota," Alexander said before the vote.
Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) spent time on the floor this month criticizing Perez for past actions at the Justice Department and in Maryland state politics, calling him a "crusading ideologue" who has "a flippant and dismissive attitude" toward the rule of law.
Democrats have dismissed the allegations as a political campaign against President Barack Obama's cabinet nominees with views Republicans don't agree with, and cited letters from "a host of other legal experts" and whistleblower attorneys who called the whistleblower case weak. Democrats also say problems in the Civil Rights Division have their root in the George W. Bush administration.