Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell took to the House floor this morning to express strong reservations about Thomas Perez, President Obama’s pick for Labor Secretary.
“He is a committed ideologue who appears willing, quite frankly, to say or do anything to achieve his ideological ends,” McConnell said. “His willingness, time and again, to bend or ignore the law and to misstate the facts in order to advance his far-left ideology lead 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.”
McConnell noted that while he was on the Montgomery County Council, Perez pushed for importing Canadian drugs into the U.S., which would have been illegal.
“Federal law is muddled,” Perez responded at the time. “Sometimes you have to push the envelope.”
“Is that the kind of approach to federal law we want in those we confirm to run federal agencies?” McConnell asked today. “Folks who think that if federal law is inconvenient to their ends they can simply characterize it as unclear and use that as an excuse to do what they want?”
“If that’s not a red flag for those of us who have to review a presidential nominee, I don’t know what is,” he said.
McConnell listed several examples of actions he said displayed Perez’s ”flippant and dismissive attitude” toward the law. Perez is currently assistant attorney general for civil rights at the Justice Department.
One of those is the “quid pro quo” deal he made with the city of St. Paul, Minn., agreeing not to intervene in two whistleblower lawsuits against the city in exchange for the city dropping a Supreme Court case that could have limited the way the government could use the Fair Housing Act.
McConnell also pointed to Perez’s testimony before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights that no political leadership was involved in a DOJ decision to scale down a voter intimidation lawsuit against two Black Panthers charged with threatening and intimidating voters outside a Philadelphia polling station in 2008.
The DOJ Inspector General later contradicted Perez, saying its investigation found that political appointees had in fact set “clear outer limits” on what the decision would be.
“Taken together, all of this paints the picture, for me at least, not of a passionate liberal who sees himself as patiently operating within the system and through the democratic process to advance a particular set of strongly held beliefs, but a crusading ideologue whose conviction about his own rightness on the issues leads him to believe the law does not apply to him,” McConnell said.Perez was scheduled to face the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee this afternoon as part of his confirmation process. That hearing has been postponed until 9:15 a.m. on May 16.