WASHINGTON (CBSMiami/AP) — President Donald Trump’s pick to head the Department of Labor is facing questions on how he would support American workers when his record gives few clues he would follow through.
Alexander Acosta made a blanket pledge at his confirmation hearing Wednesday, but offered few details about whether he supports policies Trump opposes, such as a higher minimum wage.
“Whether it is those who are working, those who still seek work, those who are discouraged or unemployed, or those who have retired, if confirmed as secretary of labor, part of my job will to be one of those advocates,” Acosta told the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.
Acosta would be the first Hispanic member of Trump’s Cabinet.
For Senate Democrats, it’s about how and whether he’d accomplish that goal leading an agency the president wants cut by 20 percent, including the deletion of a training program for jobless people age 55 and older.
Democrats also want to know whether Acosta can withstand political pressure from Trump, given what they say is a career blemished by scandal. An independent inspector general’s report said Acosta, while heading the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, insufficiently supervised a subordinate who used political tests in hiring.
“You, at best, ignored an extraordinary politicization of the work of this critical division — and at worst, actively facilitated it,” Sen. Patty Murray of Washington, the committee’s top Democrat, said in prepared remarks.
The chairman, Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., made clear what he wants overhauled at the Labor Department — dozens of rules enacted under President Barack Obama. Expanding the pool of people eligible for overtime, for example, could force small businesses to reduce jobs.
“One rule after another has stacked a big, wet blanket of costs and time-consuming mandates on job creators, causing them to create fewer jobs,” Alexander said.
Acosta, the 48-year-old son of Cuban immigrants, has been unanimously confirmed by the Senate three times — to the National Labor Relations Board, to lead the Justice Department’s civil rights division and to become South Florida’s federal prosecutor.
That means Acosta, now dean of the Florida International University Law School, has received some screening, a fact Trump and Senate Republicans have cited. Trump’s first labor nominee, Andrew Puzder, withdrew from consideration on the eve of his confirmation hearing after questions about his hiring of a housekeeper not authorized to work in the U.S. and about other issues.
(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)