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Biden again taps acting Labor Secretary Julie Su to lead DOL


Washington — President Joe Biden has renominated Julie Su for labor secretary, but Su’s path to confirmation remains murky. 

Biden first tapped Su, the deputy secretary and current acting labor secretary, to lead the cabinet department in March. The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee approved her nomination in an 11-10 party-line vote the next month, but Su’s confirmation stalled thereafter.

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) officially announced his opposition to Su’s nomination in July, leaving her seemingly unable to lose any more votes from other Democrats or independents.

Sens. Kyrsten Sinema (I-AZ) and Jon Tester (D-MT) are among those who haven’t announced their support or opposition. Sen. Mark Kelly (D-AZ) has indicated he would support Su’s nomination, according to a July 13 report from Politico.

The first hurdle for Su’s second chance at confirmation is another approval from the Senate HELP Committee.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), the committee’s chair, issued a statement of support Jan. 8.

“I strongly support Julie Su’s renomination to serve as secretary of labor,” Sanders writes. “Her strong pro-worker track record as acting secretary shows beyond a shadow of a doubt that she is the right person for the job. Her tireless and consistent work for working families across the country should continue as secretary of labor and I urge my colleagues to support her nomination.”

That same day, the committee’s ranking member, Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA), wrote on X (formerly known as Twitter): “It is clear Ms. Su lacks the necessary votes for confirmation. I urge President Biden to put forward a nominee who is committed to fair enforcement of our nation’s labor laws, will refrain from partisan activism and is capable of being confirmed in the Senate.”

Su can serve as acting secretary indefinitely, according to a Government Accountability Office report released in September. The Federal Vacancies Reform Act of 1998 states that a deputy labor secretary can act as secretary “until a successor is appointed.”

In response, Rep. Kevin Kiley (R-CA) introduced a bill (H.R. 4957) that would limit the tenure of an acting secretary to seven months (210 days) from when a vacancy occurs or as long as a nomination is pending. Current law permits an additional seven months from the point when “the first nomination” is rejected by the Senate, withdrawn by the president or returned to the president (usually after the end of a calendar year).

The House Education and the Workforce Committee approved that bill in a 23-19 vote Sept. 14, but a full House vote has yet to be conducted, as of press time.

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