Senate Democrats blamed Republicans for the second delay in committee action on the nomination of Thomas Perez for labor secretary.
Democrats allege that Republicans invoked an obscure chamber rule that calls for leaders of both parties to agree to a meeting if it is to take place after the Senate has been in session more than two hours, according to published reports.
But Republicans said they were not actually opposed to the meeting of the Senate’s Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, which was to hold a hearing on Perez’s confirmation. Democrats have a majority on the committee.
Sen. Tom Harkin, the Iowa Democrat who is chairman of the committee, angrily blamed the Republicans in a speech on the Senate floor on Wednesday.
“Republican obstructionism and procedural tricks are preventing this body from carrying out its duties, including its obligation to consider important presidential nominations,” Harkin said in his floor speech. “This continuing delay is unconscionable and only hurts the American workers and businesses that rely on the Department of Labor each and every day.”
Perez’s nomination by President Obama has been controversial, with Democrats generally backing him and Republicans opposing the former assistant attorney for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.
Many Latino leaders have been closely watching developments surrounding Perez, because he is the only Latino nominated for a Cabinet position in Obama's second term.
Republicans asked for a postponement earlier this year to review what they said were troubling actions in the Civil Rights Division under Perez’s leadership.
Specifically, opponents of Perez’s nomination said that he decided not to take part in a whistleblower complaint against the city of St. Paul because he was seeking for the city to withdraw its Supreme Court challenge of federal housing discrimination guidelines.
Indeed, even as they denied that they were seeking to put roadblocks to a hearing, Republicans made their opposition to Perez known, loud and clear, on Wednesday.
“His willingness, time and again,” said McConnell on the Senate floor, “to bend or ignore the law and to misstate the facts in order to advance his far-left ideology led me and others to conclude that he’d continue to do so if he were confirmed to another, and much more consequential, position of public trust.”
If the committee approves Perez, his confirmation still would face a fight in the full Senate.
Earlier this week, Sen. Marco Rubio, Florida Republican, essentially guaranteed a fight.
"For a Cabinet position that oversees the country’s workforce, our nation deserves a proven administrator who is committed to maximizing opportunities for the American worker," Rubio said in a statement, "not a liberal activist who has pushed the boundaries of public office to advance his agenda."