Warren presses Mulvaney, Azar on tip pooling

Warren presses Mulvaney, Azar on tip pooling
© Greg Nash

Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenGillum to speak at gathering of top Dem donors: report O'Rourke edges out Biden in MoveOn straw poll Dems ask if Trump aide Bill Shine is breaking ethics laws MORE (D-Mass.) is demanding answers from Labor Secretary Alexander AcostaRene (Alex) Alexander AcostaSasse calls on DOJ to investigate its handling of wealthy sex offender's plea deal Accusers won't testify for now against wealthy sex offender: report Lawmakers call for investigation into Labor Secretary Acosta for sex offender plea deal MORE and Office of Management and Budget Director Mick MulvaneyJohn (Mick) Michael MulvaneyTrump says he's considering 10 to 12 contenders for chief of staff Schiff writes mock White House chief of staff job description Trump: 'No rush' to pick next chief of staff MORE over whether they hid an unfavorable report on the administration’s tip-pooling rule.

The controversial rule allows employers who pay the full minimum wage to pool workers’ tips and split them with nontipped workers.

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Bloomberg Law reported Wednesday that Acosta convinced Mulvaney to overrule Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs Administrator Neomi Rao and release the rule without an analysis showing workers could lose billion in gratuities. 

It also reported that Rao tried to block the rule from being released and that Acosta and Mulvaney went ahead despite opposition within their own departments.

“The suggestion that you and Secretary Acosta both overruled your own staffs in order to reach a politically pre-ordained outcome without regard for the welfare of working men and women is deeply damaging to the trust that the American people place in the federal government to use its regulatory power on their behalf, not for lobbyists and narrow corporate interests,” Warren wrote.

In a second letter, Warren also called on Sen. Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderRepublicans skeptical of Trump’s plan to have military build the wall The Year Ahead: Drug pricing efforts to test bipartisanship Overnight Health Care: Manchin pitched Trump on reviving bipartisan ObamaCare fix | 4 in 10 don’t plan to get flu shots | Survey finds more than a quarter have pre-existing conditions MORE (R-Tenn.), the chairman of the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, to hold an oversight hearing on the controversy.

The regulation, which reverses an Obama-era rule that clarified tips are the property of workers who earn them, was lambasted by Democrats and labor rights groups for not including any safeguard to stop employers from pocketing tips.

A Department of Labor spokesperson said the department does not comment on deliberative processes.

OMB did not respond to a request for comment.

Sen. Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayVA senior adviser forced out amid concerns that he was 'getting paid to sit on his couch': report The Year Ahead: Drug pricing efforts to test bipartisanship Overnight Health Care: Manchin pitched Trump on reviving bipartisan ObamaCare fix | 4 in 10 don’t plan to get flu shots | Survey finds more than a quarter have pre-existing conditions MORE (D-Wash.), however, was able to reach a deal with Acosta and add language to the $1.3 trillion spending bill released Wednesday night to amend the Fair Labor Standards Act and create a protection regardless of whether the worker makes tips on top of a full minimum wage.

Despite this legislative fix, Warren told Alexander the committee has a responsibility to ensure rulemakings are conducted in a fair and transparent fashion.

“The misleading approach reportedly taken by Secretary Acosta and Director Mulvaney reveals an appalling disregard for the use of evidence and objective analysis in policymaking, and a lack of interest in the millions of hard-working Americans who rely on the Department of Labor, and this committee, to defend their rights and protect their earnings,” she wrote. “The reports raise serious questions about the ability and willingness of Secretary Acosta and Director Mulvaney to objectively and fairly do their jobs.”