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 July 24, 2023

Without the votes but with the job: Biden retains Julie Su indefinitely as interim labor secretary

President Joe Biden intends to retain Julie Su in her position as head of the Department of Labor indefinitely, despite the fact that her final Senate confirmation faces significant obstacles.

Since former Labor Secretary Marty Walsh left the administration in early 2023, Su has been serving as interim Labor Secretary, as The Washington Examiner reported.

Su served as deputy labor secretary under Walsh, assisting the Biden administration in a number of crucial labor and supply chain disputes during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic recovery.

"Upon Secretary Walsh’s departure, Acting Secretary Su automatically became Acting Secretary under its organic statute, not under the Federal Vacancies Reform Act,” a White House official said in a statement.

"As a result, Su is not subject to the time limits of the Federal Vacancies Reform Act and she can serve as Acting Secretary indefinitely."

In contrast to other federal agencies, the Department of Labor is not bound by the Federal Vacancies Reform Act, which requires Senate confirmation of nominees within a specified time frame.

A 1946 statute was amended in 1986 to permit the deputy labor secretary, a position to which Su was confirmed in 2021, to perform the duties of secretary indefinitely until the president announces a new nomination.

Since Su's nomination was announced five months ago, Vice President Biden, senior White House officials, the majority of congressional Democrats, and several prominent union voices have all consistently advocated for her confirmation.

However, Democrats hold only 51 Senate seats, and Su lacks the necessary support to be confirmed to her new position. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) informed the White House that he has reservations about Su's "progressive background" and will vote against her confirmation.

This week, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters that despite opposition from some senators, Vice President Joe Biden continues to believe that Su is qualified to lead the Labor Department.

"He nominated her because he believed that she was eminently qualified to do the job. And she has done it in a — in a brilliant way," she said during a press briefing on July 19.

"Let's not forget the major labor agreements that she was able to do with the West Coast ports. That's something she did as acting. And let's not forget what that would have done. That would have hurt our supply chain. And so, she has been able to do that."

Manchin's concerns regarding her tenure as secretary of California's Labor and Workforce Development Agency mirror those of a sizable portion of Republicans. During her tenure in that position, the state of California paid out $20 billion in fraudulent COVID-19 unemployment claims, which are still unaccounted for years after the payments were made.

In the meantime, centrist senators such as Kyrsten Sinema (I-AZ), Angus King (I-ME), and Jon Tester (D-MT) have not publicly stated whether they would support Su or not.

Written By:
Charlotte Tyler

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