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.


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