Republicans on the Senate committee weighing the nomination of Thomas Perez to be U.S. Labor Secretary are seeking to postpone a panel vote this week that would advance his selection to the full Senate.
The lawmakers say they want more time to examine Perez’s role in persuading the city of St. Paul, Minnesota, to drop a Supreme Court case that lawmakers said would have undermined a government enforcement tool in housing discrimination cases.
“We believe a president should have the service of his cabinet but we also take seriously our obligation to review carefully a nominee’s fitness for office,” the senators wrote to Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chairman Tom Harkin, an Iowa Democrat. It was signed by nine of the panel’s 10 Republicans, including Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, the ranking Republican.
Among other things, the senators are demanding that Perez comply with a request from congressional investigators that he produce copies of all correspondence through his private e-mail account while conducting government business.
Republicans in Congress are examining an agreement Perez struck to keep the Justice Department out of two unrelated cases against St. Paul that might have reaped as much as $200 million for the U.S. Treasury, in exchange for the city dropping the Supreme Court case.
Perez is now the head of the Justice Department’s civil rights division, and if confirmed by the Senate he would be the only Hispanic so far in President Barack Obama’s second-term cabinet.
If confirmed to replace Hilda Solis, who quit in January, Perez would play a part in pushing Obama’s agenda on issues including an immigration overhaul and raising the minimum wage to $9 an hour from $7.25. Perez, 51, was Maryland’s labor secretary from 2007 to 2009.
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