Obama's Labor nominee advances in party line vote

He argued that Perez has the professional and personal character to lead the agency calling him "passionate about the issues" with strong policy expertise will help him guide the economy out of the doldrums. 

Harkin said he was "disappointed" about Republican efforts to hold up the nomination calling it "pointless obstructionism" and the "reason why people are so frustrated with the Senate."

Panel ranking member Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) said he is opposing Perez's nomination because of a lack of candor surrounding the "troubling questions" that emerged from a review of his record and his actions at the Justice Department. 

He said Perez appeared to be involved in an "extraordinary amount of wheeling and dealing to obtain desired results" and that he reached outside of his purview at Justice to ensure that a Supreme Court case was dropped in favor of the agency's willingness to stay out of two whistle-blower cases in St. Paul, Minn. 

Those decisions "cost taxpayers the opportunity to recover millions of dollars and violated the trust of whistle-blowers," Alexander said. 

"He manipulated the legal process in way that seems inappropriate for an assistant attorney general," he said.

Alexander said his actions are especially disturbing "in light of the abuses now seen in this administration."

The vote on Perez had been postponed twice before. 

Harkin nixed the first vote after Georgia Republican Johnny Isakson, a member of the panel, had asked Frederick Newell to discuss the involvement of Perez and the Justice Department in the disposition of several housing discrimination cases in St. Paul, Minn. at a separate subcommittee hearing. 

Newell eventually testified at the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee with Isakson and Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) joining him at the witness table in a heated hearing to discuss Perez's record. 

Last week, Senate Republicans invoked a procedural rule to delay the panel's vote.