President Trump's pick to head the Labor Department, former assistant attorney general for civil rights Alexander Acosta, is heading toward a relatively easy confirmation when he gets a vote in the full Senate this month.
Acosta has solid Republican support, and while few liberal groups are backing his nomination, their response has been muted and nothing like their opposition to Trump's previous pick for the Cabinet post, fast-food businessman Andrew Puzder.
The vote is expected later this month and "no trouble" is expected, according to a Republican source who requested anonymity.
"It's been eerily quiet about Acosta, on both the Left and Right," said Matt Patterson, executive director of the Center for Worker Freedom, an arm of the conservative Americans for Tax Reform. Others involved in lobbying for Acosta's confirmation report the same thing. Labor and liberal groups with an interest in the department didn't respond to requests for comment.
The Senate fight over placing Judge Neil Gorsuch on the Supreme Court has pushed everything else to the side for now, said a lobbyist backing Acosta who requested anonymity. That has had the effect of diverting attention from other administration nominees. "We haven't heard anything about Acosta's nomination facing a fight on the Senate floor," the source said.
That's a sharp contrast to Puzder's nomination, which drew fierce opposition from the Left. They mounted a sustained, and ultimately successful, PR campaign against Puzder, an outspoken conservative and CEO of CKE Restaurants, which owns the Hardee's and Carl's Jr franchises.
Acosta, the dean of Florida International University Law School, has not drawn anywhere near that level of opposition. He even has the support of some major unions, including the International Union of Operating Engineers, the Laborers' International Union of North America and the International Association of Fire Fighters. All praised his record of public service in the two previous presidential administrations and said they expected he would fairly apply the law as labor secretary. In addition to being at the Justice Department, Acosta was a member of the National Labor Relations Board, the main federal labor law enforcement agency from 2002 to 2003.
The success of the anti-Puzder campaign appears to have largely satiated liberal groups' need to make a stand. Many still make a point of touting Puzder's defeat even when discussing Acosta's nomination.
In a Huffington Post article Thursday, Gail Rogers, an activist with Fight for $15, a union-run minimum wage activist group, indicated that they didn't have the ammunition against Acosta. "Mr. Puzder made his views on workers very clear, but Mr. Acosta, an attorney and law school dean from my home state, doesn't have the same outspoken record," Rogers said.
It still is likely to be a partisan vote. Acosta frustrated many Senate Democrats with his refusal at a hearing last month to commit to backing Obama-era rule changes at the Labor Department. The AFL-CIO, the nation's largest labor federation, said it "raised serious questions."