Perez is the only Latino nominated so far for a second-term Cabinet position.
“Thomas Perez’s record should be met with great suspicion by my colleagues for his spotty work related to the New Black Panther case, but Louisianians most certainly should have cause for concern about this nomination,” Vitter said. “Perez was greatly involved in the DOJ’s partisan full court press to pressure Louisiana’s Secretary of State to only enforce one side of the law — the side that specifically benefits the politics of the president and his administration at the expense of identity security of each and every Louisianian on the voter rolls.”
Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., delivered perhaps the harshest criticism of Perez, focusing on his past advocacy for illegal immigrants as president of the board of Casa de Maryland.
“Mr. Perez has aggressively sought ways to allow the hiring of more illegal workers,” Sessions said. “By nominating Mr. Perez to this important post, the president has placed his drive to promote his flawed immigration policies over the needs of the millions of unemployed Americans.”
Democrats are convinced such arguments will simply widen their advantage with Latino voters.
“Despite the fact that Republicans are pledging to reach out to the Hispanic community, they still don’t get it,” said Jim Manley, who used to work with Perez on Kennedy’s staff. For the comments to come out “on the same day that the RNC is pledging to retool their image is just kind of funny,” said the former spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
Perez also faces a congressional investigation into his role in getting St. Paul, Minn., to drop its housing discrimination case instead of going to the Supreme Court. In exchange, the Justice Department reportedly declined to press False Claims Act charges against the city.
That has several GOP lawmakers, including Grassley, fuming.
Grassley said he probably wouldn’t try to filibuster Perez by himself but might join in with others if he doesn’t receive answers on the St. Paul case.
“That is what oversight is all about. ... We have a responsibility to make sure the laws are faithfully executed. Getting our information is a big determination as to whether the law has been faithfully executed,” he said.
Ron Bonjean, a former GOP leadership aide, said the GOP can oppose Perez if it does it carefully and focuses “on his ability to promote jobs and the economy.” If Senate Republicans “start wading into the issues of immigration, that can be a political minefield for Republicans. Keep the focus on whether he can do the job,” Bonjean advised.
But Perez’s life story is sure to appeal to the groups the GOP now aims to court. One of five children of immigrants from the Dominican Republic, his four siblings became doctors while Perez became a lawyer. It’s a story right out of Obama’s stump speeches.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.