Alexander Opposes Nominee For Labor Secretary

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tn.), the ranking member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, on Thursday voted to oppose moving the nomination of Thomas Perez out of committee and to the Senate floor.

Senator Alexander said: “I will oppose voting Mr. Perez out of the HELP Committee for two reasons: Number one, my view of his record raises troubling questions about his actions while at the Department of Justice and his candor in discussing his actions with this committee. Number two, congressional committees have asked for relevant and specific information that hasn’t been provided yet by the nominee or the administration.

“To preserve a favorite legal theory, Mr. Perez orchestrated a quid pro quo arrangement between the Department of Justice and the city of St. Paul in which the department agreed to drop two cases in exchange for the city withdrawing a case, the Magner case before the Supreme Court.

“Mr. Perez’s involvement in this whole deal seems to me an extraordinary amount of wheeling and dealing outside the normal responsibilities of the Assistant Attorney General over the Civil Rights Division. To obtain his desired results, Mr. Perez reached outside of his civil rights division at the Department of Justice into the Minnesota’s U.S. Attorney’s office and into the Department of Housing and Development. This exchange cost American taxpayers the opportunity to potentially recover millions of dollars, and, more importantly, violated the trust whistleblowers place in the federal government. This testimony has been contradicted by the testimony of other witnesses in contemporaneous documents.

“It seems to me that Mr. Perez did not discharge the duty he owed to the government to try to collect the money owed to taxpayers. He did not discharge the duty to protect the whistleblowers that were left hanging in the wind. At the same time he was manipulating the legal process to remove a case from the Supreme Court in a way that seems inappropriate for the Assistant Attorney General of the United States.” 

At his hearing in April, Senator Alexander asked Mr. Perez to provide information, including emails for which there is an outstanding subpoena and which House Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Ca.) and Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and have not been complied with. Alexander also cited an outstanding request for unredacted copies of transcribed interviews gathered during the Department of Justice Inspector General’s investigation.

He has since made several follow up requests for the same information, including a letter to the Department of Justice Inspector General on May 10.

Senator Alexander’s full statement is below:

Thank you Mr. Chairman for holding this mark-up for the nomination of Mr. Perez.

I will oppose voting Mr. Perez out of the HELP Committee for two reasons:

Number one, my view of his record raises troubling questions about his actions while at the Department of Justice and his candor in discussing his actions with this committee.

Number two, congressional committees have asked for relevant and specific information that hasn’t been provided yet by the nominee or the administration. To preserve a favorite legal theory, Mr. Perez orchestrated a quid pro quo arrangement between the Department of Justice and the city of St. Paul in which the department agreed to drop two cases in exchange for the city withdrawing a case, the Magner case before the Supreme Court.

Mr. Perez’s involvement in this whole deal seems to me an extraordinary amount of wheeling and dealing outside the normal responsibilities of the Assistant Attorney General of the Civil Rights.  To obtain his desired results, Mr. Perez reached outside of his civil rights division at the Department of Justice into the Minnesota’s U.S. Attorney’s office and into the Department of Housing and Development.

This exchange cost American taxpayers the opportunity to potentially recover millions of dollars, and, more importantly, violated the trust whistleblowers place in the federal government. His testimony has been contradicted by the testimony of other witnesses in contemporaneous documents. In short, it seems to me that Mr. Perez did not discharge the duty he owed to the government, to try to collect the money owed to taxpayers. He did not discharge the duty to protect the whistleblowers that were left hanging in the wind. At the same time, he was manipulating the legal process to remove a case from the Supreme Court in a way that seems inappropriate for the Assistant Attorney General of the United States.

Mr. Perez’s use of private email accounts to leak non-public information is currently being investigated. Senator Burr has made a request he may want to talk about that involved emails sent from his personal email account to a New York Times reporter, 15 minutes after a settlement was reached between the Department of Justice and Countrywide concerning lending discrimination allegations. In my written questions to Mr. Perez, following his confirmation hearing, I asked him specific questions about whether he had personally solicited support for his nomination from companies he might regulate if he were to be the Secretary. He has yet to provide a direct answer to that simple question. This is particularly concerning, given the current abuses of power we are seeing in this administration of the same sort.

On May 8, Chairman Issa and Ranking Member Cummings sent a request to Mr. Perez to produce all of his personal emails regarding official Department of Justice business. On May 14th, the Department of Justice gave House Oversight Committee staff the opportunity to review the date and recipients of the email. However, the text of the email was redacted and the subject lines – producing completely redacted emails that can’t be considered responsive. The Department of Justice Inspector General recently published a detailed report that discussed problems in the voting rights section. It talked about a politically charged atmosphere of polarization. Mr. Perez has administered that section since 2009 – it talked about unauthorized disclosure of sensitive and confidential information about blatantly partisan political commentary.

It specifically criticized the management of the Department. I requested that the Department of Justice Inspector General to provide transcripts of specific portions of interviews between Mr. Perez and the inspector general. We were provided with significantly redacted portions of those transcripts – so significant that I have asked for more clarification. I understand that elections have consequences and presidents are entitled to be able to have cabinet members nominated and considered by the Senate within reasonable period of time. However, the Senate has a duty of advice and consent and we would not be fulfilling our constitutional duties if we rushed to vote on Mr. Perez.

The president knew when he appointed Mr. Perez that Congress was investigating his involvement into brokering the quid pro quo deal in St. Paul, Minnesota.  

One other thing, in terms of whether there has been delay, I would include in the record if I may, Mr. Chairman, an article from the Washington Post on March 18 that said the Senate is moving more rapidly on the second-term nominees in confirmation than it did in the last three presidents. According to the Congressional Research Service, it took an average of 55 days for Bush’s second-term nominees, 68 days for Clinton, 58 days for Reagan. Mr. Perez has been before the Senate for 60 days since the announcement.

That seems to me a reasonable time to ask that we consider the information that we have asked for.

If I were to apply a personal standard, a very-well qualified governor who was nominated for U.S. Secretary of Education 21 years ago and it took 87 days for this committee and the Senate to consider his impressive qualifications to be Secretary of Education, and, in light of what we do and all that we don’t know yet, I believe it is premature to report Mr. Perez nomination, and for that reason, I will be voting no. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.


Alexander Says Supreme Court Right To Block Obama Clean Power Plan

Senator Lamar Alexander agreed U.S. Supreme Court was right to block the Obama Administration’s Clean Power Plan until legal challenges to the law are resolved. “The Supreme Court was right to stop implementation of the Obama administration’s arbitrary energy plan that favors unreliable wind power over more reliable clean sources of energy like nuclear power. The best path ... (click for more)

Speed Networking Membership Luncheon Is Feb. 23

Walker County Chamber of Commerce will host a speed networking luncheon Feb. 23 with special guest and emcee Kim Carson from Sunny 92.3 FM.  It will be held at the Walker County Civic Center from 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. Attendees have the opportunity to network face-to-face with each guest, exchanging business cards and information about their respective businesses to gain contacts ... (click for more)

WWTA, Grimes, Clem Lambasted At Boyd Public Forum

Over 50 people turned out Tuesday night on a meeting called by County Commissioner Tim Boyd over issues with the Hamilton County Water and Wastewater Treatment Authority (WWTA), and many took turns lambasting the agency, director Cleveland Grimes and attorney Chris Clem. Commissioner Boyd said at the end of the hour and a half session at the East Ridge Community Center, "If less ... (click for more)

City Facing Millions In Catchup Costs For Fire And Police Pension Fund

City Council members were told Tuesday they are facing millions of dollars in catchup costs for the fire and police pension fund. Pension fund officials said the city will need to invest some $1.6 million per year more with the fund to keep up with the latest state requirement. Frank Hamilton said the fund has been at a level of about 60 percent of obligations, but that needs ... (click for more)

Rick Smith Should Not Be Paid To Leave

Taxpayers of Hamilton County should take note that a majority of the members of the school board are getting ready to give Rick Smith the buyout that he wants.  Do you agree that someone should be paid for taking the coward's way out?  Rick Smith should be fired for cause. Not paid to leave.   If you don't want the board members to pay him off, call or ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Grab The Reaching Hand

Three of Tennessee’s largest four cities are now searching for school superintendents. Jesse Register retired last June and, after botching the first attempt, Nashville city leaders are intensely helping the Board of Education in a search for the best candidate. In Knoxville and Chattanooga the superintendents have resigned, both under a cloud, and now the leaders of the ‘2.0’ initiative ... (click for more)