Labor & Employment

Obama taps 'assertive civil rights regulator' to head Labor Department

President Obama has nominated Justice Department official Thomas Perez as labor secretary, a move criticized by some Republican lawmakers who say the nominee is too political.

Perez has led the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division since 2009, report the New York Times and the Washington Post. The Times describes Perez as “an assertive civil rights regulator” who has “racked up record discrimination and housing claims” during his DOJ tenure.

Among the critics is Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., according to the Times account. “This is an unfortunate and needlessly divisive nomination,” Sessions said. “Mr. Perez has aggressively sought ways to allow the hiring of more illegal workers. Mr. Perez has also had a controversial tenure at the Department of Justice, where he has demonstrated a fundamentally political approach to the law.”

Several Republicans pointed to a recent report by the Justice Department’s inspector general that found “deep ideological polarization” in the DOJ’s voting rights section. Perez has said most of the problems occurred before the time he oversaw the section as assistant U.S. attorney general.

The report also found that Perez gave incomplete testimony about a case prior to his tenure, but he didn’t intend to mislead. Perez told the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights that senior department officials were not involved in a decision to curtail a voter intimidation case against members of the New Black Panther Party. The report said senior officials participated in discussions, although the decision was made by career lawyers.

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