Roughly three months ago, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee voted along party lines to advance President Joe Biden’s labor secretary nominee Julie Su, sending her nomination to the full chamber.
But her nomination has yet to get a final vote.
Senate Republicans sent a letter to President Joe Biden last month urging him to withdraw Su’s name from consideration, citing concerns over her time as the head of California’s Labor and Workforce Development Agency.
“In the past three months since she was nominated to be the Secretary of Labor, Ms. Su has given senators no indication that her past positions and actions are not indicative of future positions and actions she would take as Secretary,” reads the letter, signed by 33 Republican senators. “She has avoided answering questions whenever possible and she has refrained from providing distinct specificity to her answers when she has responded to inquiries.”
Biden’s nominee has secured support from nearly every Democrat in the closely divided Senate and the largest unions in the country, but in order to be confirmed, she would likely need to win the backing of three key lawmakers: Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., John Tester, D-Mont., and Kyrsten Sinema, I-Ariz. It’s unclear so far how they plan to vote, though Axios has reported that Manchin has indicated privately to the administration he is a no.
Despite the most recent setback, the White House is digging in on its support for Su, launching a full-court press to get Su’s confirmation across the finish line.
"Acting Secretary Julie Su is highly-qualified, experienced, and should be confirmed as Labor Secretary," a White House official said in a statement to Spectrum News. "She recently helped secure a labor agreement at the west coast ports, won unanimous confirmation as Deputy Secretary of Labor by all Senate Democrats, and garnered support from business and labor groups across the spectrum. The White House continues fighting for Acting Secretary Su’s confirmation, as she continues serving the President and hardworking Americans."
Senior White House officials are holding “war room” calls every night for status updates on where the nomination stands, which sources say have been going for weeks. They are heavily engaging senators whose votes may be key to her nomination.
As uncertainty swirls around Su’s confirmation, the Labor Secretary has been putting her head down and remaining focused on the department’s work. The Pacific Maritime Association and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union announced earlier this month a tentative agreement on a new six-year contract covering workers at all 29 West Coast ports that both parties say she “played a key role” in facilitating. The Executive Director of the Port of Los Angeles publicly thanked her for her work on the matter.
The AFL-CIO has also pushed heavily for Su, spending six figures on an ad campaign of their own and AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler calling Su is “eminently qualified” to be the next labor secretary.
“This has been her life's work. She’s spent pretty much literally every waking hour of every day thinking about how to improve the lives of working people for decades,” said Shuler. “Whether it's wage theft, misclassification of workers, you speaking up for workers who have no voice, particularly her work with immigrant workers. And we know [with] the famed Thai garment workers case that she took on, she’s just not afraid to take on the big challenges, even when the odds are against her,” Shuler told Spectrum News in April.
But it’s unclear whether these efforts by the administration and Su’s allies will be enough to move the needle. We reached out to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s office for comment on when a confirmation vote may happen following the July 4th recess.
"Julie Su is highly-qualified to be Labor Secretary, recently led on securing a labor agreement at the west coast ports, was unanimously confirmed as Deputy Secretary of Labor by all Senate Democrats, and has support from business and labor groups across the spectrum," Emilie Simons, White House Deputy Press Secretary told Spectrum News in a statement.