The Senate on Thursday confirmed Thomas Perez as the Obama administration's new labor secretary, despite deep opposition from Republicans who accused him of bending the laws to advance his liberal agenda.
Senators voted 54-46 along party lines to confirm Perez, who is currently assistant attorney general for the Justice Department's civil rights division and has a long history of working on immigration and rights issues.
President Barack Obama nominated Perez on March 18 to replace Hilda Solis, who resigned. Republicans have been holding up a vote on Perez for months.
As labor secretary, the 51-year old Perez will oversee the country's labor laws and employment benefits as well as the collection of jobs data.
Perez will be the only Latino to serve on Obama's second-term cabinet so far and is expected to play an important role in the administration's push to rewrite immigration laws and give millions of illegal immigrants a path to citizenship.
Hispanic groups threw their weight behind Perez, whose parents immigrated from the Dominican Republic.
"Tom Perez has demonstrated unwavering commitment to protecting our civil rights and building opportunity for all Americans," said Janet Murguia, president of Hispanic advocacy group National Council of La Raza. "Millions of Hispanics across this country have been directly impacted by his work."
Republicans had tried to block Perez's nomination, saying he was too political and aggressive on immigration issues.
They eventually relented and allowed the Senate to proceed with his confirmation and other controversial nominations after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid threatened to stop Republicans from using procedural moves to block Obama's executive branch nominees.
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