The White House is giving up on seeking the Senate's approval for progressive Julie Su for the role of labor secretary, opting instead to keep her as "acting" secretary indefinitely.
The administration tried to get confirmation for the past nearly five months, but opposition from Sens. Joe Manchin (D., W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (I., Ariz.) rendered the effort fruitless.
Manchin pointed to her "progressive background" as disqualifying for the role.
A labor secretary "should have the experience to collaboratively lead both labor and industry to forge compromises acceptable to both parties," Manchin said in a statement this month. "Su's more progressive background prevents her from doing this."
The White House will sidestep Senate approval and keep her in the role, which the Labor Department allows in a policy that says a deputy can indefinitely serve as acting secretary.
Republican senator Bill Cassidy (La.) called out the White House for the move.
"If your administration believes Ms. Su cannot receive the necessary votes for confirmation, then you should rescind her nomination," Cassidy wrote in a Thursday letter. "Any attempts to bypass the will of Congress, especially its constitutionally mandated advice and consent role, is unacceptable."
Su oversaw California’s Employment Development Department before joining the Biden administration, and her record raised concerns in Congress. She froze checks on unemployment claims and failed to stop payment to suspicious accounts, resulting in an estimated $31 billion in fraudulent payments. The state's unemployment insurance fund is now in a nearly $20 billion deficit.
When former president Donald Trump had "acting" secretaries, Democrats and the media slammed the strategy as subverting democracy.
"It’s striking how many of the secretaries of the largest departments of this government are acting at this point," Sen. Chris Coons (D., Del.) said during the Trump administration.