La­bor nom­i­nee says pol­i­tics won’t in­flu­ence hir­ing

Austin American-Statesman - - MORE OF TODAY’S TOP NEWS - By Laurie Kell­man

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s nom­i­nee to lead the La­bor Depart­ment said Wed­nes­day he won’t al­low po­ten­tial po­lit­i­cal pres­sure from the ad­min­is­tra­tion to in­flu­ence his hir­ing de­ci­sions and re­grets he let that hap­pen on his watch at the Jus­tice Depart­ment.

But Alexan­der Acosta, tes­ti­fy­ing be­fore the Se­nate Health, La­bor, Ed­u­ca­tion and Pen­sions Com­mit­tee, said lit­tle about what he would do about over­time pay and other is­sues if con­firmed for the job. He would be the first His­panic mem­ber of Trump’s Cab­i­net and is Trump’s sec­ond choice for the post, af­ter fast food CEO Andrew Puzder with­drew his name.

Ul­ti­mately, Acosta said, the pres­i­dent would be his “boss.”

Sen. Patty Mur­ray, the top Demo­crat on the com­mit­tee, said that’s what con­cerns her.

The Florida In­ter­na­tional Univer­sity law school dean, whose ca­reer was touched by a po­lit­i­cal hir­ing scan­dal while he led the Civil Rights Di­vi­sion un­der Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush, said he’s “very aware” that the depart­ment’s in­ter­nal watch­dog crit­i­cized him for in­suf­fi­ciently su­per­vis­ing a sub­or­di­nate.

“I deeply re­gret it,” Acosta said.

Mur­ray asked whether Acosta would stand up to any po­lit­i­cal pres­sure from Trump. Acosta’s re­ply: “Po­lit­i­cal views on the hir­ing of ca­reer at­tor­neys for staff should not be used. If I am asked to do that I will not al­low it.”

The com­mit­tee is ex­pected to vote as soon as next week on send­ing the nom­i­na­tion to the full Se­nate, a com­mit­tee spokes­woman said.

Acosta de­clined to out­line many poli­cies he would pur­sue, though he did speak in fa­vor of the youth train­ing pro­gram Job Corps. For ex­am­ple, he would not say whether he would de­fend the rule ex­tend­ing over­time pay to some 4 mil­lion more peo­ple that had been blocked last year by a fed­eral court in Texas. Nor would he say which other rules and reg­u­la­tions he would pull back, not­ing that Trump or­dered Cab­i­net sec­re­taries to re­view them.

“I think it’s im­por­tant that we elim­i­nate reg­u­la­tions that are not serv­ing a use­ful pur­pose,” he said un­der ques­tion­ing by Sen. El­iz­a­beth War­ren, D-Mass.

The com­mit­tee chair­man, Sen. La­mar Alexan­der, R-Tenn., made clear he wants dozens of Obama-era rules over­turned, in­clud­ing the prospect of over­time that he said would bur­den busi­nesses.

“One rule af­ter an­other has stacked a big, wet blan­ket of costs and time-con­sum­ing man­dates on job cre­ators, caus­ing them to cre­ate fewer jobs,” Alexan­der said.

Acosta, the 48-year-old son of Cuban im­mi­grants, has been unan­i­mously con­firmed by the Se­nate three times — to the National La­bor Re­la­tions Board, to lead the Jus­tice Depart­ment’s civil rights di­vi­sion and to be­come South Florida’s fed­eral pros­e­cu­tor.

La­bor sec­re­tary nom­i­nee Alexan­der Acosta

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