“I would ask my colleagues ... is this the type of person that we want running the Department of Labor, especially at a time when Congress is contemplating passage of important immigration reform laws?” Cornyn asked. “Given his record, I’m concerned Mr. Perez does not have the temperament or the competence we need as secretary of the Department of Labor. I will oppose his nomination.”
GOP Conference Chairman John Thune of South Dakota also raised concerns about Perez but said he’ll wait until after a committee vote on the nominee before deciding.
“I think he’s going to have a fairly tough time getting through the process,” Thune said. “There are a lot of questions and a lot of concerns. He’s got big problems in my view.”
Sen. David Vitter, R-La., has promised to try to block Perez on the floor because of concerns that the Civil Rights Division practiced “selective enforcement” of a voter registration law. Vitter said last month that he will demand a 60-vote threshold for confirmation.
A President’s Prerogative
Still, Sen. Charles E. Grassley, R-Iowa, said Wednesday he doesn’t believe Perez’s confirmation is currently threatened. He noted that some Republican senators tend to follow the axiom that a president should be allowed to pick his team.
“I know McConnell put out a strong statement,” Grassley said. “Let [opposition] foment a little bit and see then what people are saying. ... But there is a feeling among a lot of people in our caucus that a real mistake was made when he wasn’t opposed more vigorously when he got to be an assistant attorney general.”
In October 2009, when Perez was confirmed 72-22 as the head of the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division, he received the votes of 17 Republicans, nine of whom are still in the Senate, including Grassley.
Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin, D-Md., who worked with Perez when the nominee served as Labor secretary in his home state, predicted that Perez will ultimately be confirmed.
“It may take a little while — longer than we would like,” Cardin said. “I find it difficult to believe that Republicans will really want to filibuster him. To do a Cabinet-level filibuster is something that would be extraordinary and I think they would want to avoid that.”
Committee Vote Delayed
Republicans used an obscure procedural tactic to delay the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee from voting on Perez’s nomination Wednesday. It was the second such delay for Perez; Chairman Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, had earlier agreed to postpone an April 25 committee vote, after Republicans asked for more time to vet the nominee.
Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., backed by ranking member Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., said he planned to object Wednesday afternoon to a generally agreed upon rule that allows committees to meet after the Senate has been in session for more than two hours. As a result, Harkin was forced to reschedule the vote for May 16.
Scott, who believes Perez took a heavy hand in his state in enforcing the 1964 Voting Rights Act, would not rule out a filibuster of his nomination. “It seems like there is still a red state bias and the notion of a partisan approach is not necessarily needed at the Department of Labor,” Scott said.