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Senate Battle over Perez Nomination: ‘Hagel on Steroids’

Image: Senate Battle over Perez Nomination: ‘Hagel on Steroids’ Thomas Perez, President Barack Obama’s nominee for secretary of labor.

By John Gizzi   |   Wednesday, 27 Mar 2013 08:12 AM

Stormy Senate confirmation battles that ended in approval of Chuck Hagel as secretary of defense and John Brennan as CIA director will be remembered as minor skirmishes compared to the upcoming fight over President Obama’s nomination of Thomas Perez to be secretary of labor.

Senate observers see the confirmation hearings and floor debate over the controversial Perez nomination as “Hagel on steroids.”

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Perez, 51, has close ties to organized labor — AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka was on hand when the president formally nominated him at the White House — and he backs controversial union-backed measures such as an increase in the minimum wage.

He also backs the “living-wage” concept, the European-conceived idea that a 40-hour-a-week laborer should be compensated enough to provide basic needs.

But more than those concerns is a long list of controversial stands and associations — many of which are outside the portfolio of the secretary of labor — that has set Republican lawmakers on a mission to thwart Perez, currently assistant attorney general for civil rights and former Maryland secretary of labor.

A highly incendiary 258-page report released by Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz found “serious concerns” among career lawyers about “hostile, racist, and inappropriate behavior” toward those who disagreed with liberal policies in the Civil Rights Division headed by Perez.

Specifically, the IG’s report cited opposition to the Civil Rights Division’s reluctance to pursue voting rights cases to protect white victims of discrimination.

The report also said that Perez withheld information in testimony that Associate Attorney General Thomas Perrelli was a party to the Justice Department’s decision to drop a voter intimidation case filed against the New Black Panther Party in Philadelphia.

Perez told the inspector general “that he does not believe Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act should be enforced to protect white victims of race discrimination, even if they live in majority-minority jurisdictions,” the Washington Examiner reported last week.

The Examiner went on to editorialize that “Perez’s racially selective view is in direct conflict with the statutory language of the Voting Rights Act that prohibits racial discrimination against ‘any citizen’ and is not limited to national racial minorities.”

But the IG report is only the tip of the proverbial iceberg when it comes to fodder for opposition to the nominee.

Before he was elected to the Montgomery County Council in Maryland, Perez was president of Casa de Maryland, a group that assists immigrants regardless of their legal status in the United States. Among those backing the group (albeit after Perez’s stint as its president) are left-of-center multi-billionaire George Soros and CITCO, Venezuelan’s state-run oil company under the late President Hugo Chavez.

According to Fred Wszolek, spokesman for the Workforce Fairness Institute, Perez “received thousands of dollars in consulting fees for his work with the Public Health Institute, a nonprofit group that has received $260,000 from George Soros’ Open Societies Foundation.”

Some editorial pages have warned Republicans about the possible danger in taking on the man who, if confirmed, would be the lone Cabinet member of Hispanic heritage. This does not appear to be a factor in the questions about Perez and his actions and associations already being posed by Republican Sens. Chuck Grassley of Iowa and David Vitter of Louisiana.

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In the two most controversial confirmation battles since the president’s inauguration in January, 41 votes in the Senate were cast against Chuck Hagel and 34 against John Brennan. Look for a higher number to be cast against Thomas Perez — and perhaps a Rand Paul-style 13-hour filibuster or two.

John Gizzi is the former political editor for Human Events, working for the conservative weekly from 1979 to 2013. Gizzi is a recipient of the William A. Rusher Award for Journalistic Excellence, was named Journalist of the Year by the Conservative Political Action Conference in 2002, and has appeared on hundreds of radio and TV talk shows.

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