Senate Dems Approve Julie Su’s Renomination as Labor Secretary in Closed-Door Meeting

Deputy Labor Secretary Julie Su, left, and Sen. Mazie Hirono (D., Hawaii) (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
February 27, 2024

A panel of Senate Democrats greenlit President Joe Biden’s renomination of Julie Su as labor secretary in a closed-door, party-line vote Tuesday, sparking criticism from Republicans that the secretive vote has forestalled any further vetting of the controversial nominee.

Vermont senator Bernie Sanders (I.), who leads the Senate Labor Committee, sent notice of the vote on Monday, noting his strong support of Su and her "strong pro-worker track record." The vote is largely symbolic: Su hasn’t won over support from moderate Democrats who last year sank her confirmation over her apparent union favoritism, and those lawmakers weren’t part of Tuesday’s vote. Biden gave up on getting her confirmed last summer and named her as indefinite "acting" labor secretary before renominating her last month.

"[Sanders’s] decision to not hold a public hearing on Ms. Su is unacceptable and shows a lack of transparency from the majority," the Labor Committee’s ranking Republican senator Bill Cassidy (La.) said on the Senate floor Monday.

Sanders’s latest move to back Su comes as she rolls out a contentious independent contractor regulation that forces companies to reclassify contractors and freelancers as employees and makes it harder for people to work for themselves. House Republicans have already introduced legislation to overturn the rule, which is based on a California law that Su implemented as that state’s former labor chief.

The Senate panel voted 11-10 to approve Su. A representative for Sanders did not respond to a request for comment.

In a Senate floor speech after Sanders announced the vote on Monday, Cassidy said that concern over Su’s suitability to lead the Labor Department has grown since her nomination failed last year. He decried her "troubling record" as acting labor secretary that includes the far-reaching independent contractor regulations, and noted her failure to stem a "dramatic increase" in illegal child labor, which has spiked 50 percent since 2022 according to her agency’s own report.

"This is amid alarming reports that the senior [Labor Department] officials repeatedly ignored warnings and downplayed the exploitation of migrant children for cheap labor, to which Ms. Su has failed to adequately respond," Cassidy said.