After a nearly two-month delay, Rep. Hilda Solis (D-CA) has been confirmed as the next U.S. Secretary of Labor. Her nomination was supported by a Senate vote of 80-17. The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee had already voted to approve her nomination by voice vote on the evening of Wednesday, February 11. Only two Republican Senators – Pat Roberts (R-KS) and Tom Coburn (R-OK) – opposed her nomination at the time. The HELP confirmation cleared the way for a vote on her nomination before the entire Senate this afternoon. Before Congress adjourned for the President’s Day recess, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) had filed a motion to invoke cloture on her nomination. This cloture vote – which had been slated to occur this morning – would have staved off further objections to her nomination so long as Democrats could garner at least 60 votes in her favor. At the eleventh hour, however, Reid decided to forgo this procedural test vote and move right to a full confirmation vote.
President Obama named Solis as his choice to lead the Department of Labor on December 18, 2008. Her confirmation hearing was held on January 9, 2009. During this hearing, some Republican senators expressed irritation that she refrained from expressing her position on contentious labor issues such as the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA). It had been widely believed that one or more senators had threatened to put a hold on her nomination due to her reluctance to answer their questions.
Other issues continued to bog down her confirmation in recent weeks, including whether her position as a board member and treasurer of American Rights at Work (ARW) – a pro-labor organization that lobbied on behalf of EFCA and other labor-related bills Solis co-sponsored – presented a conflict of interest. As a result, some members of the HELP committee submitted additional rounds of written questions to Solis before they would agree to a vote.
Solis’ selection as Labor Secretary has been widely hailed by union leaders and worker advocates.