GOP shows skepticism of Labor nominee

Republican lawmakers appeared wary of President Obama’s nominee to lead a powerful branch of the Labor Department on Tuesday morning, although their ability to block the vote is limited.

At a brief morning hearing in the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, Republicans seemed reluctant to support David Weil for the department’s Wage and Hour Division. Democrats have cheered his nomination.

Sen. Lamar Alexander (Tenn.), the panel’s top Republican, said that he was “concerned about an agenda” to have the division, which enforces minimum wage, overtime and child labor laws, oversee unionization activities and crack down on violations at franchising operations.

Weil, currently a professor at Boston University’s School of Management, said that franchises can be a “vital form” of business.

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But Well's concern, he said, “is where that’s being used in ways that are not legitimate forms of franchising ... but instead are used as a way to subvert the law.”

Alexander, while not saying he would unconditionally oppose Weil, said that “for so many people, franchising has been the path to the American dream.”

He warned that he would not support a nominee “with a singular focus to inappropriately stretch current law to throw a big wet blanket on that American dream” by targeting franchise businesses.

Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), who owned an Allstate Insurance franchise before entering Congress, said that it would be “inconsistent” for the government to target parent companies of franchises that mistreat the law.

Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), meanwhile, celebrated Weil as an “exemplary candidate” for the post, which has been empty throughout the course of the Obama administration.

Fellow Democrats agreed.

“I think we are very lucky to have someone of your talents and experience in this job,” added Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.).

Democratic support will likely be all that Weil will need. Due to a change in Senate rules last month, Republicans will be limited in their ability to stall his nomination once it reaches the full Senate floor because a only a simple majority is needed for confirmation.

Weil is the third person Obama has nominated to lead the Wage and Hour Division. Two previous nominations were withdrawn during the president’s first term.