08.12.2013 2

They were warned about Labor Secretary Perez, now they got him

Thomas PerezBy Rick Manning

Senator Marco Rubio spoke and voted against it, warning, “Members, you are about to vote to give 60 votes and cut off debate on a nominee that has ignored a congressional subpoena from the House on information relevant to his background and to his qualifications for this office.”

In spite of the direct evidence that Tom Perez should not be entrusted with the Labor Secretary Cabinet post, six Republicans joined all 54 Democrats in giving him the 60 votes needed to close debate on his nomination.

The Republicans, Senators John McCain (Ariz.), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Susan Collins (Maine), Lamar Alexander (Tenn.), Bob Corker (Tenn.), and Mark Kirk (Ill.), knew what they were voting for, yet because they blinked in the face of Senate Majority Leader Reid’s filibuster bullying, chose for Senate comity over stopping a disastrous nominee.

Less than three weeks since he took office the chickens are already coming home to roost.

Somewhat surprisingly the first place to experience the heavy hand of Perez’ radical activism is California, and specifically, Democrat Governor Jerry Brown.

According to the Santa Barbara Independent, “Perez notified Brown that the Department of Labor remained ‘concerned’ the reform bill ‘diminishes the substantive rights of transit employees under current collective bargaining agreements and narrows the future scope of collective bargaining over pensions.’ Because of that concern, the Department of Labor has declined to green-light the release of the funds. At the same time, it has taken no action and issued no formal ruling.”

The notification is significant because California has been grappling with reining in overly generous public employee pensions that have been negotiated over the years by public employee unions who have been the political kingpins of the state for at least a decade.

Finally, California state finances became so dire in 2012, the Democratic controlled legislature and Democrat Governor Brown were forced to act.

Brown hailed these actions at the time writing, “This is the biggest rollback to public pension benefits in the history of California pensions,” said Governor Brown. “We’re lowering benefits to what they were before I was Governor the first time and reducing costs by up to $55 billion in PERS and billions more in other local pension systems. Under the new rules, employers and employees alike are going to contribute their fair share of the costs, resulting in a more sustainable system.”

Now, in his first couple of weeks on the job, Labor Secretary Perez has put this reform in jeopardy through his demand that transit workers be given a waiver from it using a little known power to stop federal funding of projects if they don’t receive Labor Department certification.

Perez has given Brown two weeks to resolve the Perez created crisis to his satisfaction in spite of pleas from Santa Barbara Democrat Representative Lois Capps and the local Teamsters Union to release the funds.

Perhaps House Democrats should have paid attention when Perez ignored their Republican counterparts’ legal subpoena for information as it appears his disdain for anyone who seeks to rein in his power cuts across party lines.

One thing is clear.  Perez is just beginning to stretch the boundaries of his authority, and it should surprise no one in Washington, D.C.

Tennessee’s Alexander whose flannel shirts and pick- up truck are getting dusted off for their every six year campaign swing of next year voted against Perez coming out of the Senate’s Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee charging, “To preserve a favorite legal theory, Mr. Perez orchestrated a quid pro quo arrangement between the Department of Justice and the city of St. Paul in which the department agreed to drop two cases in exchange for the city withdrawing a case, the Magner case before the Supreme Court.”

Alexander continued, “Mr. Perez’ involvement in this whole deal seems to me an extraordinary amount of wheeling and dealing outside the normal responsibilities of the Assistant Attorney General of the Civil Rights.”

But on the only vote that counted, the vote on whether to filibuster Perez’ ascension to his throne, Alexander blinked.  He will tell constituents that he voted against Perez in both Committee and for confirmation, but the truth is, he and his five Republican colleagues who voted against the filibuster, own everything done by Perez over the next three and a half years.

Unfortunately, the rest of the country will pay the price for the decision of these six Republicans and their 54 Democrat colleagues to rubber stamp a nominee who is not only willing to ignore Congress, but to use his power to threaten state pension reforms in perhaps the most liberal state in the nation.

With this start, Senators of both political parties may discover just how disruptive a Department that reaches into every workplace in America can be.

But at least they stopped the fighting in the Senate.

Rick Manning (@rmanning957) is the Vice President of Public Policy and Communications for Americans for Limited Government. 

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