Vice President, Labor Policy, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
March 24, 2017
The United States Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) this week held its hearing for Alexander Acosta, President Trump’s nominee to be the Secretary of Labor. Mr. Acosta is the dean of the Florida International University College of Law and previously has served in Senate-confirmed positions as a member of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights, and United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida.
Mr. Acosta was nominated to serve as Secretary of Labor following the withdrawal of President Trump’s initial pick, restaurant executive Andrew Puzder. Given his previous track record in Senate-confirmed positions, as well as support from several labor unions and former NLRB chair Wilma Liebman, Mr. Acosta encountered little serious opposition during his hearing, which lasted approximately three hours.
During the questioning period, several senators asked Mr. Acosta about a variety of different topics of interest to the HELP Committee, including trade adjustment assistance, apprenticeship and training programs, disability policy, and regulation of the so-called “gig economy.” Senators also raised questions about more controversial issues surrounding the Department of Labor, especially its ill-conceived overtime regulation and fiduciary rule, both of which Mr. Acosta promised to evaluate pursuant to a White House a directive, and the department’s budget cut under the administration’s proposed budget.
The HELP Committee has announced that the committee will vote on Mr. Acosta’s nomination on March 30. Most observers of labor policy expect little opposition in that vote, and Mr. Acosta’s nomination will then go to the full Senate for consideration, which reportedly* will not take place until late April, given Congress’ upcoming Easter recess.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other business groups recently voiced their support for Mr. Acosta’s nomination as Labor Secretary in a letter to the HELP Committee, and the business community will welcome his eventual confirmation once it happens.