Tom Perez’s political future has been in limbo for months.
Though none other than the leader of the free world wants him on his team, the former high-ranking Justice Department administrator still has no idea if he’ll become the next Labor Department secretary.
President Obama went before the nation, staring into cameras to explain why the former director of the civil rights department at the Justice Department is qualified for and deserves to be part of his second-term cabinet.
Yet the potential appointment has remained just that — a potential appointment. But after not hearing a peep since his Senate confirmation hearing in April, Perez is expected to get an answer next week.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, is expected to call for a cloture vote for Tuesday. Assuming that goes through, a final vote on the Perez nomination would likely come on Thursday.
The issue is a sensitive one for the nation’s top Latino community leaders, who have publicly — albeit diplomatically — criticized the president for the lack of diversity in his second-term cabinet, particularly with Hispanic appointments.
In his first term, Obama had two Latino cabinet members — Hilda Solis as Labor Secretary and Ken Salazar in charge of the Interior Department. National Latino leaders had expected Obama to keep at least two for his second term, but so far there have been none.
Perez — assuming he’s actually confirmed, no guarantee — would become the sole Hispanic cabinet member.
The National Hispanic Leadership Agenda, an umbrella group incorporating the nation’s largest Latino rights group, has led the effort for Perez’s appointment. With the confirmation hearing scheduled for next week, NHLA is making a final push.
“Tom Perez is on the verge of making history as the first Dominican American Cabinet-level appointee in the nation,” the organization told supporters in an email sent on Thursday.
Hector Sanchez, executive director of NHLA, in an interview with Fox News Latino in May, when the group last met with President Obama to discuss various key issues including cabinet appointments, said that he was skeptical of the president's commitment.
He said he expressed to the president his disappointment with the dearth of Latinos in the cabinet.
“I put it on the table, diplomatically,” Sanchez said in May, about asking Obama about Latino appointments. “There was no response.”
It seemed like déjà vu for another leading Latino group after a meeting with the president.
The Congressional Hispanic Caucus huddled with President Obama on Wednesday to discuss immigration reform and other key topics.
Kristian Ramos, a spokesman for the group —made up of several Hispanic members of Congress, all Democrats — declined an interview about the meeting, and in particular whether the issue of Latino cabinet appointments was discussed.
Ramos sent out a statement, detailing various topics taken up, from immigration to Obamacare to the Supreme Court decision impacting voting rights.
“There is no daylight between the CHC and the Administration on this issue,” according to the statement, referring to immigration reform and in particular support for maintaining a path to legalization for the nation’s estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants.
Ramos said the CHC would not comment on anonymous comments allegedly made by a Caucus member regarding the issue of Latino cabinet appointments.
According to The Hill, a newspaper for political junkies in Washington, Caucus members actually criticized the president for not having more Latinos in top posts.
“Obama told the lawmakers during Wednesday’s meeting that he heard they had taken one of his staffers ‘to task’ on the issue,” according to the report in The Hill. “But the president didn’t provide much reassurance about appointing more Hispanics to his administration, one attendee said.”
Almost as if echoing Hector Sanchez’s words after his own meeting with the president, one CHC member said the president was not very responsive when the cabinet appointment issue was raised.
“’He stepped around it,’” an unidentified CHC member told the publication.
Melody Gonzalez, whose task at NHLA is tracking Latinos nominated for federal posts and advocating for them, said there's still a chance President Obama could appoint more Latinos to remaining cabinet posts. The group has said Latinos would deserve to get three appointments, though such a scenario is highly unlikely.
They will also get behind non-cabinet high-profile nominations, such as Katherine Archuleta for director of the Office of Personnel Management, as well as Alejandro Mayorkas for deputy secretary at the Department of Homeland Security.
But for now, she said, the focus is on putting all effort into backing Perez for Labor secretary.
"We're hearing some Senators want to filibuster the appointment," said Gonzalez. "We want them to know we're watching closely and will not tolerate any attacks against (Perez)."