Senate confirms Perez as secretary of Labor

The Senate on Thursday voted 54-46 to confirm Tom Perez as secretary of Labor.

It was a party-line vote, with no Republicans supporting President Obama's nominee.

Several GOP senators have charged that Perez had engaged in “ethically questionable” actions while heading the Civil Rights division of the Department of Justice.

Republicans agreed to hold an up-or-down vote on the nomination as part of a deal to avoid the "nuclear option" to end filibusters, but they made clear their strong disapproval of Perez on Thursday.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) accused the new Labor secretary of making "misleading" statements to Congress and an inspector general during his service in the administration.

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“Tom Perez is more than just some left-wing ideologue, he’s a left-wing ideologue who appears perfectly willing to bend the rules to achieve his ends,” McConnell said. “This is reflective not of some passionate left-winger who views himself as patiently advancing policies within the bounds of a democratic system but as a crusading ideologue whose convictions lead him to believe that the law simply doesn’t apply to him.”

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) urged his Republican colleagues to vote no because he said Perez had failed to answer lawmakers’ questions during congressional hearings.

“How can we possibly — I don’t care what deal was cut — how can we move forward on someone who hasn’t provided information asked for by a congressional committee?”

Democrats defended Perez and hailed the end of the months-long Senate battle over his confirmation.

“Filling the position of Labor secretary couldn’t be more important,” Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) said ahead of the vote. “Our country and our economy are stronger when the Department of Labor has a talented and qualified leader at the reins. … The president has nominated someone who will bring passion, integrity and a lifetime of experience to this important position.”

Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chairman Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) said Perez has the "strongest reputation of professional integrity" and has acted "ethically."