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Senate panel approves Trump’s pick to run Labor Department

Richard Lardner
Associated Press

Washington – A Republican-led Senate committee voted along party lines Tuesday to advance the nomination of President Donald Trump’s pick to lead the Labor Department.

The Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee approved attorney Eugene Scalia’s nomination, 12-11, clearing the way for the full Senate to vote.

Republicans and Democrats had sparred over Scalia’s nomination and the AFL-CIO had opposed the pick, calling Scalia a union-busting lawyer who has eroded labor rights and consumer protections.

Eugene Scalia speaks during his nomination hearing on Capitol Hill, in Washington, Thursday, Sept. 19, 2019.

But business groups viewed Scalia as a reliable opponent of regulatory overreach and urged the committee to back the nomination.

The committee’s chairman, Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., said Scalia’s work as a law firm partner on labor, employment and regulatory matters make him qualified to lead the department. Scalia also served for a year as the Labor Department’s top lawyer during the George W. Bush administration.

“Businesses and workers need a secretary of Labor who will steer the department with a steady hand,” Alexander said before the vote.

But Sen. Patty Murray of Washington, the committee’s ranking Democrat, described Scalia as an “elite corporate lawyer” who would be a “yes man” for what she called the Trump administration’s anti-worker agenda.

Murray had asked Alexander to delay proceedings on Scalia’s nomination because she said members had not been given enough time to completely review his background.

“We need to take our vetting process seriously since President Trump won’t,” she said.

Alexander refused to hold up the nomination.

Alexander said committee members have known about the nomination since July 18 when Trump tweeted Scalia was his pick for the top Labor job. The committee formally received the nomination on Sept. 11, but Alexander said Scalia’s required paperwork, which included his financial disclosure and ethics agreements, has been available for committee members to examine since late August.