A vote on President Barack Obama’s controversial labor secretary nominee was postponed after Republican Senators summoned a whistleblower to testify before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee.
Politico reported on Wednesday that Frederick Newell, a St. Paul, Minnesota community activist, will appear before the committee to discuss the $200 million whistleblower lawsuit that Tom Perez, the head of the Department of Justice’s civil rights enforcement, allegedly dismissed as part of a quid pro quo deal with the city. The city withdrew a Supreme Court case that threatened to overturn disparate impact, a racial discrimination doctrine that Perez supports, in exchange for the DOJ dropping the whistleblower suit
Nine HELP Committee Republicans sent a letter to Chairman Sen. Tom Harkin (D., Iowa) on Monday asking him to postpone a confirmation vote so the committee could interview the whistleblower and one other witness about the St. Paul case. The Republicans also hope to explore allegations that Perez used his personal email account to dodge transparency laws.
“We are concerned that this is premature for consideration because there are a number of requests for information that remain outstanding,” the letter states. “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. Without the requested information, we cannot complete that evaluation.”
Harkin had pledged not to delay the vote, which was scheduled for Thursday, according to the Wall Street Journal. He reversed himself on Wednesday.
“While I continue to believe there are no impediments to Mr. Perez’s confirmation, I am agreeing to postpone his Committee vote until May 8th, in order to allow those Senators who have asked the time to request additional information they believe they need, and to evaluate his qualifications," Harkin told Politico.
Ranking Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander (R., Tenn) said that Harkin made the right call.
“It was appropriate for the Chairman to postpone the markup so that senators could get responses to a number of outstanding questions as we evaluate this nominee,” he said in a statement to the Washington Free Beacon.
Newell will appear before the committee on Thursday. The committee vote has been delayed to May 8.