Democratic Senator Will Vote Yes on Trump Labor Sec

Nelson spokesman says senator approves of Acosta

Sen. Bill Nelson (D., Fla.) / Getty Images
March 15, 2017

Law school dean Alexander Acosta picked up a key Democratic vote in his bid for secretary of labor.

A spokesman for Sen. Bill Nelson (D., Fla.) told the Miami Herald that the four-term Democratic senator intends to vote for Acosta, who has served as dean of the Florida International University law school since 2009.

Nelson has been a vocal critic of Donald Trump's cabinet picks and frequently has joined Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer in resisting the White House's nominees. He voted against 10 of the 19 nominees who have appeared before the full Senate, according to Decision Desk HQ's confirmation tracker.

Nelson joined his Democratic colleagues in opposing Trump's first nomination to lead the department, fast food executive Andy Puzder. The Florida senator attended a meeting in January with Democratic lawmakers and workers from Puzder's franchises, Hardee's and Carl's Jr. The meeting was organized by labor activists and unions.

Unions waged a dogged opposition campaign against Puzder after his nomination was announced in December, with activists filing unfair labor practice complaints against his company and unearthing video of a two-decade-old Oprah episode where Puzder's ex-wife alleged that he abused her. The company denies the labor violation charges, and Puzder's ex-wife retracted her claims after the couple settled the divorce. Still, Puzder withdrew his nomination in the face of united opposition from 48 Senate Democrats and rumors that as many as six Republican lawmakers would vote against him.

Acosta, who was nominated by Trump within 24 hours of Puzder's withdrawal, has attracted support from both sides of the union divide. Several labor unions have endorsed Acosta, while staunch Trump opponents, including AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, have said the nomination is worthy of "serious consideration."

Acosta was confirmed by the Senate for three previous federal posts, including an eight-month term at the National Labor Relations Board, a top federal labor arbiter that settles workplace disputes and oversees union elections.

Acosta needs a simple majority of senators in order to be confirmed. He is scheduled to testify before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions on Wednesday, March 22. A committee vote is expected the following week.