With no Republicans voting in support, President Obama's nominee to lead
the Department of Labor cleared a big hurdle in the Senate Thursday.
The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee voted 12-10 along party lines to send the nomination of Thomas E. Perez, former assistant attorney general for the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, to the floor for final conformation.
Senate Democrats may try to schedule a vote in the coming weeks, but it is unclear whether Republicans will try to block his nomination on the floor.
GOP lawmakers accuse Mr. Perez of acting unethically and in a partisan manner in the past, and said Thursday recent scandals besieging the Obama White House only make the choice more problematic.
"This is particularly concerning in light of the current abuses of power we've seen from this administration," Sen. Lamar Alexander, Tennessee Republican and the committee's ranking Republican, said at the hearing.
After Sen. Tom Harkin, chairman of the HELP committee granted Republican requests to delay the committee vote for two weeks, GOP members last Wednesday then employed a scarcely-used tactic to delay the vote for yet another week, which angered Democrats on the committee.
"This partisan obstructionism is extremely disturbing," Mr. Harkin said at the hearing.
Mr. Harkin maintained that Mr. Perez was open and responsive to both Democrats and Republicans on the committee as they considered his nomination. He said Mr. Perez was willing to meet with all members of the committee who requested his presence, as well as answer more than 200 written questions from Senators.
"He knows how to bring people together, to make progress even on controversial issues, without burning bridges," Mr. Harkin said.
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