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Scalia confirmed as secretary of labor

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Washington — Eugene Scalia is the new secretary of labor, after the Senate confirmed him Sept. 26 in a 53-44 vote.

The confirmation comes only two days after Scalia received approval from the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee in a 12-11 party-line vote.

The son of late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia replaces acting Secretary of Labor Patrick Pizzella. The deputy secretary of labor has been in charge of the department since R. Alexander Acosta resigned from the top post July 19.

Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), ranking member of the HELP Committee, had sought to delay the process because Scalia’s nomination was not formally sent to the Senate until Sept. 11.

“I am disappointed we have continued to rush through this confirmation process despite my request for more time to carefully and thoroughly vet this nominee,” Murray said before the HELP Committee voted. “I’ve repeatedly made clear that members have not been given enough time to review Mr. Scalia’s background in a way that is truly complete or sufficient for such an important role.”

Committee Chair Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) noted during Scalia’s confirmation hearing Sept. 19 and before the committee voted five days later that President Donald Trump first announced his intention to nominate Scalia on July 18 via Twitter. The committee also received all the relevant paperwork by Aug. 27. Alexander added that Scalia offered to meet with each committee member.

Again during both hearings, Alexander pointed out that the committee received the paperwork for former President Barack Obama’s Secretary of Education John King Jr. only six days before his confirmation hearing.

“I believe it’s important for presidents to have cabinet members who are confirmed and accountable to us in the United States Senate,” Alexander said.

In his opening statement Sept. 24, the committee chair also said that he received 29 letters in support of the nominee, including one from Cass Sunstein, administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs during Obama’s first term.

Alexander quoted part of Sunstein’s letter: “[Scalia’s] decency is part of what makes him someone who tends to go case by case and to end up where the facts and the law take him. He does not have an ideological straitjacket. He takes issues on their merits.”

 

During his confirmation hearing, Scalia attempted to alter the perception that he is a defender of solely corporate interests.

“I am not necessarily my clients,” Scalia said. “I will seek to defend them, to vindicate their rights. That doesn’t mean that I think what they did was proper or I agree with them.”

Sen. Bob Casey Jr. (D-PA), however, said during the latest hearing that there is “nothing” in Scalia’s previous experience that he shows he could “take off his corporate lawyer hat and put on a worker advocate hat.” And in a tweet posted after Scalia’s confirmation, Murray said she “will fight every day to hold him and the Trump Administration accountable for the harm they’re doing to workers.”

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