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Perez Nomination Inches Forward, But Senate Is the Real Hurdle

“As our economy continues to recover, we need a dynamic leader at the helm of the Department of Labor who will embrace a bold vision of shared prosperity,” said Harkin.

Republicans again raised concerns about Perez’s communications by email with a New York Times reporter in 2011, the night before the Justice Department announced a major settlement with a lending firm. Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) said Perez had disclosed non-public information that could potentially move markets. The senator called Perez’s actions unethical and inappropriate.

Harkin answered that, by the time the reporter and Perez had exchanged emails, the Justice Department’s public affairs office had already informed journalists that an announcement would be made the next day. “Mr. Perez did not provide or communicate to the reporter any subsequent information about the content of the settlement or any other detail,” Harkin said.

Attorney General Eric Holder told leaders of the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday that Perez deserves praise for bringing a record number of cases alleging voting rights violations and police misconduct. Holder defended Perez’s tenure as head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division and said he would make a great secretary of Labor.

Holder also addressed the criticism about some of Perez’s actions as assistant attorney general and allegations that he politicized enforcement of civil rights laws. PJ Media’s J. Christian Adams, who worked for Perez at the Department of Justice’s civil rights division, recently testified about the several instances of hostility towards race-neutral law enforcement by the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.

“There had been some indications that people in the Voting Section, in particular, have not gotten along with each other too well. There were a number of incidents, the majority of which were in the prior administration, that I think are not really good examples of how DOJ employees are supposed to work with one another,” said Holder. “But I think if you look at Tom's record, he has done what we expect of a person who would head the Civil Rights Division, which I think is the conscience of the Justice Department. He's done an outstanding job and deserves to be confirmed as secretary of Labor.”

Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) held a conference call shortly after the Senate committee vote along with Maryland business leaders in support of Perez’s nomination.

“I’ve looked at every one of the attacks brought against Tom Perez and I must tell you they are without merit,” said Cardin. “There has been a total independent review in all of the areas and there is no basis for [the attacks].”

Cardin also said Perez is entitled to an up or down vote in the Senate, citing his outstanding qualifications for the position. Perez is likely to need 60 votes in the Senate to get past Republican opposition.