President Obama’s nomination of Thomas Perez to serve as Secretary of Labor is drawing fire from House Judiciary Committee chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Roanoke County.
His opposition likely means political fireworks over Perez in the House of Representatives as well as in the Senate, which must consent to Cabinet nominees.
Some congressional Republicans believe Perez was too political in his current position as head of the Justice Department’s civil rights division and accuse him of pressuring the city of St. Paul, Minn., to drop a housing discrimination lawsuit.
They also say a Justice Department Inspector General’s report on problems within the division’s voting right section raises concerns about Perez. That report found a lack of professionalism in the voting rights section, though no signs of improper enforcement of law, in the Obama and George W. Bush administrations.
“I am shocked the President is moving forward with this nomination,’ Goodlatte said. “ Last week the Department of Justice’s Inspector General (IG) outlined dysfunction at the Civil Rights Division, which Mr. Perez currently manages. The IG report brought to light insufficiencies in the Division’s management, significant impediments to its operation, and deep ideological polarization.
“Furthermore, the House Judiciary Committee has been investigating a controversial, secret deal Mr. Perez helped arrange with the city of St. Paul, Minnesota that cost taxpayers millions of dollars. As the President’s nominee for Labor Secretary, Mr. Perez should face tough questions about this backroom deal he helped coordinate, his role in interfering with a Supreme Court case, and his mismanagement of the Civil Rights Division. The House Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing to investigate these concerns.”
That case involved landlords’ challenges to the way the city enforced housing codes. The city’s legal argument, some conservatives have argued, could have put at risk a basic concept of anti-discrimination law – that the impact of acts that appear neutral can be illegal if their actual effect is discriminatory.