Senate Democrats confirm Tom Perez as Labor Secretary: boasted of prosecuting pro-life activists
WASHINGTON, D.C., July 18, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Thomas Perez, whom the U.S. Senate confirmed today as the new secretary of labor, has boasted of prosecuting pro-life activists, attempted to allow the government to define who is a “minister” in parachurch organizations, and has a history of meeting with the most extreme proponents of the transgender political movement.
The Senate confirmed Perez by a 54-46 party line vote. The all-Democratic vote was an historic moment, the first time a Cabinet member was confirmed with the votes of only one party, according to the Senate historian.
However, six Republicans – Lamar Alexander, Susan Collins, Bob Corker, Mark Kirk, John McCain, and Lisa Murkowski – voted for the cloture motion that allowed the vote to go forward on Wednesday.
Perez was allowed to sail through confirmation despite strong Republican misgivings about his competence and integrity after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid threatened to end the use of the filibuster. Perez and two other Obama nominees were allowed to be confirmed in exchange for retaining the parliamentary stalling device.
Obama nominated Tom Perez in March to replace the former secretary, Hilda Solis.
Last September Perez boasted, “We have opened 20 civil investigations under the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act, and filed eight complaints under the Act – compared to just one civil FACE Act case in the eight years of the previous administration.”
But his dogged pursuit of pro-life activists has earned his department a hefty fine – and a federal judge's suspicion he was colluding with abortion providers.
Last April, the Justice Department paid Mary Susan Pine $120,000 in lawyers’ fees after wrongly accusing her of violating the 1994 FACE law. The judge speculated in his opinion that Pine's prosecution, shepherded by Perez, had been carried out in collaboration with a Florida abortion provider to punish her for her advocacy.
Although Perez, who headed the DOJ's civil rights division, did not win a single conviction, he said prosecutions such as that of David Hamilton were “absolutely crucial” to assure “that those individuals who desire reproductive health services be able to obtain them in an environment that is free of interference.”
Perez helped draw up the Obama administration's legal brief in the controversial Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. EEOC case. The administration lost the case at the Supreme Court in a rare, 9-0 decision joined by both Obama-appointed justices.
Perez has also been part of the Obama administration's catering to radical transgender activists.
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In March 2011, Perez represented the DOJ at the National Summit on Gender-Based Violence Among Youth, sponsored by the Departments of Education, Justice, and Health and Human Services (HHS). Among those invited was Harper Jean Tobin, policy counsel at National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE). The NCTE has lobbied officials to force schools to:
“Adopt school policies that ensure full inclusion of transgender students, including students’ ability to dress, access restrooms, and compete in sports consistent with their gender identity”; and
“Institute age-appropriate, inclusive curricula on harassment and dating violence.”
Tobin later remembered having an “inspiring” conversation with Perez.
The new secretary's personal ethics have been questioned more than once. Allegations swirled that Perez may have perjured himself over the 2008 Black Panther voter intimidation case, which his department controversially dismissed.
Senate Republicans say Perez also misled Congress about his role in brokering an agreement with the city of St. Paul to avert a housing discrimination case.
Tactics like this led Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-KY, to describe Perez as “a crusading ideologue whose convictions lead him to believe that the law simply doesn’t apply to him.” Perez “appears perfectly willing to bend the rules to achieve his ends,” he said.
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-TX, agreed today that “Perez’s record indicates a lack of respect for the rule of law in his efforts to reach a misguided definition of ‘justice.’”
“Mr. Perez has not proved himself capable of carrying out the duties of this position,” Cruz said.
But Tom Harkin, D-IA, stated that Perez has the "strongest reputation of professional integrity."
The Justice Department's Inspector General (IG) might disagree. The IG released a nearly 300-page report that declared that, on Perez' watch, certain DOJ employees had engaged in “cyber-bullying” of other employees over their religious beliefs.
Just as the confirmation was coming to a vote, a group of whistleblowers accused Perez of discriminating against career DOJ employees. His actions, they said, were “directed at preserving the positions of political appointees who have 'burrowed' into Civil Rights Division through Perez’s patronage. Now, under fiscal constraints, Perez has directed senior DOJ staff to constructively terminate career staff in order to protect the political appointees from a Reduction in Force. ”
The nominee's committed left-wing politics also gave the GOP pause, especially as the Labor Department could ratchet up regulations on businesses as the economy continues to struggle.
A writer for MSNBC pundit Rachel Maddow's blog calls Perez “arguably the most liberal member of President Obama's second-term cabinet.”
“Even those who condemn the president from the left were thrilled with this pick,” Steve Benen wrote.
Perez formerly served on the staff of the late Senator Ted Kennedy. He went on to serve as Maryland State Secretary of Labor, after losing his election to become state attorney general. He also strongly supports amnesty for illegal immigrants.
Others looked askance at Perez's divisive history within the department. In addition to the Black Panther case, Perez led the Justice Department's crusade against Joe Arpaio, the sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona, claiming “America's toughest sheriff” had been guilty of racially profiling by stopping primarily Hispanic people when looking for illegal immigrants near the Mexican border. In May, a federal judge agreed. Arpaio has promised to appeal.
Perez also investigated ways to prosecute George Zimmerman for civil rights violations in the shooting of Trayvon Martin. Ultimately, no such charges could be filed, and Zimmerman was acquitted.
However, Republicans may have been reluctant to oppose Perez, the only Hispanic in Obama's cabinet in his second term. (Perez, who was born in New York, is the son of immigrants from the Dominican Republic.)
Both former Obama advisers and Beltway Republican insiders had warned the party against placing a hold on the nomination. Roll Call newspaper added that strongly opposing Perez' nomination risked “undercutting the Republican National Committee's brand-new diversity push.”
President Obama warmly greeted the news of the confirmation, saying, “I want to thank the Senate once again for agreeing to move forward on Tom and the other nominees who have waited far too long for the yes-or-no votes they deserve.”
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