GOP Takes Another Shot at Derailing Obama’s Progressive Labor Nominee


Republicans have been trying for weeks to block President Barack Obama’s nomination of Thomas Perez, the chief of the civil rights division at the Justice Department, to run the Labor Department. They haven’t succeeded yet. But they’re still at it.

Politico’s Josh Gerstein reports that Democrats have delayed a vote on Perez nomination that was originally scheduled for Thursday. The Dems moved to postpone the vote after Republicans said they would use an unrelated Senate subcommittee hearing on workplace safety to feature a witness likely to be critical of Perez. Republicans wanted to call Frederick Newell, a St. Paul man whose $180 million lawsuit against the city over its failure to properly dispense federal grants meant for low-income residents was undercut by an agreement Perez helped arrange. The workplace safety hearing has now been postponed as well, with Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) accusing Republicans of trying to exploit the hearing to attack Perez and possibly derail his nomination.

As Mother Jones reported in March, in exchange for the Justice Department not joining Newell’s lawsuit, St. Paul agreed last year to withdraw a fair housing case before the Supreme Court. Liberals had feared that the conservative justices on the high court would have used the St. Paul case to significantly narrow the ability of the federal government to hold financial institutions accountable for discrimination against minorities.

Republicans were frustrated by the missed opportunity to weaken the Fair Housing Act, a key civil rights law. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) worked hard to convince GOP legislators on the Senate labor committee that Perez acted inappropriately when he helped broker that deal with St. Paul. The House oversight committee, which Issa chairs, released a report last week that accused Perez of shady behavior but failed to detail any specific legal or ethical violations. (Perez consulted with internal ethics monitors at Justice to ensure that the deal was appropriate). Republicans brought up the report during Perez’ confirmation hearing last week but there were no fireworks.

Newell is angry about the St. Paul deal for a very particular reason of his own. This St. Paul small business owner spent years putting together evidence that the city of St. Paul wasn’t meeting its federal grant obligations. The city entered into an agreement in 2010 with the Department of Housing and Urban Development to ensure it would meet those obligations in the future, and HUD told Mother Jones in March that St. Paul has complied so far.

Though the underlying issue that Newell sued over seems to have been resolved, he didn’t get anything out of the deal. Had the lawsuit proceeded and he won, he would have pocketed between 15 and 30 percent of the sum the judge decided St. Paul owed. But it’s not clear Newell would have won his case if the Justice Department had joined. The US attorneys in Minnesota thought he had a good case, yet the experts in the civil division believed he did not. When the Justice Department declined to join Newell’s lawsuit, it meant that the case would most likely be dismissed, and it was.

So the problem was taken care of, but Newell lost his chance to collect a lot of money. Given all the hard work he put in, it’s understandable he’s ticked off at Perez. But the fact that Newell didn’t get his money doesn’t mean Perez did anything improper.

LET’S TALK ABOUT OPTIMISM FOR A CHANGE

Democracy and journalism are in crisis mode—and have been for a while. So how about doing something different?

Mother Jones did. We just merged with the Center for Investigative Reporting, bringing the radio show Reveal, the documentary film team CIR Studios, and Mother Jones together as one bigger, bolder investigative journalism nonprofit.

And this is the first time we’re asking you to support the new organization we’re building. In “Less Dreading, More Doing,” we lay it all out for you: why we merged, how we’re stronger together, why we’re optimistic about the work ahead, and why we need to raise the First $500,000 in online donations by June 22.

It won’t be easy. There are many exciting new things to share with you, but spoiler: Wiggle room in our budget is not among them. We can’t afford missing these goals. We need this to be a big one. Falling flat would be utterly devastating right now.

A First $500,000 donation of $500, $50, or $5 would mean the world to us—a signal that you believe in the power of independent investigative reporting like we do. And whether you can pitch in or not, we have a free Strengthen Journalism sticker for you so you can help us spread the word and make the most of this huge moment.

payment methods

LET’S TALK ABOUT OPTIMISM FOR A CHANGE

Democracy and journalism are in crisis mode—and have been for a while. So how about doing something different?

Mother Jones did. We just merged with the Center for Investigative Reporting, bringing the radio show Reveal, the documentary film team CIR Studios, and Mother Jones together as one bigger, bolder investigative journalism nonprofit.

And this is the first time we’re asking you to support the new organization we’re building. In “Less Dreading, More Doing,” we lay it all out for you: why we merged, how we’re stronger together, why we’re optimistic about the work ahead, and why we need to raise the First $500,000 in online donations by June 22.

It won’t be easy. There are many exciting new things to share with you, but spoiler: Wiggle room in our budget is not among them. We can’t afford missing these goals. We need this to be a big one. Falling flat would be utterly devastating right now.

A First $500,000 donation of $500, $50, or $5 would mean the world to us—a signal that you believe in the power of independent investigative reporting like we do. And whether you can pitch in or not, we have a free Strengthen Journalism sticker for you so you can help us spread the word and make the most of this huge moment.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate