Julie Su's Contentious Labor Secretary Nomination Appears to Have Reached a Dead End in the Senate

Julie Su was a disastrous labor official in California, overseeing $32 billion in fraud and crumbling independent contracting industries with retroactive and opportunistic enforcement. So, of course, when elected, President Joe Biden offered her a promotion. Su served as the U.S. Deputy Secretary of Labor until Marty Walsh resigned from the Department’s top spot, leaving her to act as the interim secretary. Meanwhile, her nomination for the role, brought by the White House in February, awaits confirmation in the Senate. After being passed out of committee in April, and amid a chorus of opposition voices, campaigns, and lobbying, Su’s nomination has not been brought up for a vote. 

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On Thursday, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) brought votes on a series of nominations, including former Rep. Xochitl Torres Small’s (D-N.M.) to be deputy secretary of Agriculture, Rosie Hidalgo to be the Justice Department’s director of Violence Against Women Office, and another batch of Judicial nominees. This indicates that the earliest possible consideration of Su’s nomination would be in mid-July, assuming it is ever considered at all.

As previously reported, Republicans have been calling for her nomination to be withdrawn, with 33 penning a letter to Biden last week that read:

Given this present state of affairs, we respectfully urge you to withdraw the nomination We appreciate your responsiveness to this request and ask for prompt confirmation that the nomination of Julie A. Su is formally withdrawn.

(See: 33 Republican Senators Call on Biden to Withdraw Su’s Stalled Nom for Labor Secretary)

Congressman Kevin Kiley (R-CA) called Su’s testimony to Congress “evasive, non-responsive and outright dishonest at times,” similarly calling on Biden to withdraw the nomination.

Business groups that have long called on Senators to oppose Su’s nomination, such as the International Franchise Association, which wrote a coalition letter to Senators in March, were excited about the GOP Senators pressuring Biden to withdraw her name. The letter said:

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Confirming a labor secretary with a track record of putting roadblocks in the way of solving the current workforce shortage would negatively affect every American, every business (particularly small businesses), and the economy.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association opposes Su, writing a letter to Biden on Thursday also requesting that he pull her nomination. The trucker group said that her nomination hasn’t been supported in the Senate in part because of her “disastrous policies affecting the trucking industry’ in California, including on gig workers.” 

Senator Tim Kaine, a Democrat from Virginia, has lobbied the holdouts, expressing frustration over the situation, saying:

Frustrated. I can’t predict what other people are going to do. But I do know this: keeping it hanging out there is good for nobody — not for the country, not for her, not for us. Let’s have a vote.

At the center of the stalled votes are three moderates, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), and Kyrsten Sinema (I-Ariz.) Manchin is the least likely to come along for the Su ride, Sinema has a policy of not previewing her votes, and Tester is getting impatient. Last week, Tester said:

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I would love to [have a vote on her], but you know why? Because you guys would never have to ask me again how I was going to vote on Julie Su.

With the trio not budging on vote-whipping efforts, moderate Republican Senator from Alaska Lisa Murkowski emerged as one to watch during the confirmation battle, but the White House had nothing to report about how those conversations have been going. Sen. Murkowski hasn’t revealed a stance but sounded less than enthused about a projected outcome, saying:

I don’t know. I don’t think she’s coming forward. Look at where we are right now. I haven’t seen anyone on the other side move on her.

On Monday, the White House doubled down on its insistence that Su should be confirmed. Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said:

We are definitely committed, The White House and outside groups continue … a full-court press to get Julie confirmed. That has not stopped.

When asked if Su’s nomination will be withdrawn due to the lack of progress, the White House has claimed that Su is “highly qualified’ and pointed to brokering a tentative agreement between shippers and West Coast dockworkers, which Biden also praised her for earlier this month, and perhaps is the only administration talking point in current use. Su’s potential failure of a nomination isn’t a good look for the President going into a re-election year. The White House has moved to assemble a so-called war room, making daily calls about Su’s nomination.

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