President Obama yesterday officially named Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez as his pick to head the Department of Labor, and within hours, three Republican senators had already announced their opposition. Perez’s nomination is expected to face fierce opposition from both Senate Republicans and conservative activists, but the former head of the Republican National Committee won’t include himself in the opposition.
Michael Steele, who led the RNC from 2009 to 2011, told BuzzFeed’s Evan McMorris-Santoro that Perez was “going to be a fine secretary“:
While Steele said he and Perez “disagree on some issues philosophically,” he called on his fellow Republicans to confirm him. “Tom is a very passionate guy like I am. He believes in the idea of public service and the president recognizes that and has said he’s going to be a strong voice for the workers of this country as he was for the workers of Maryland as our labor secretary,” he said. “I think a lot of people want you to put on that partisan hat and chew him a new one, but for what purpose? He’s been good at his job and he’s been faithful to the oath that he swore.“
Steele and Perez both served in Maryland’s state government — Steele as lieutenant governor from 2002 to 2007 and Perez as labor secretary from 2007 to 2009. Perez, as Steele noted, has a long history of fighting on behalf of workers. He has pushed for labor protections for domestic workers and for immigrant workers who weren’t getting paid and also fought worker exploitation and human trafficking
Conservative opposition to Perez has stemmed largely from his time at the Justice Department, where he brought an unprecedented number of cases challenging voter restrictions. Louisiana Sen. David Vitter (R) also voiced skepticism of Perez’s supposed work around a case involving the New Black Panther Party, but Perez did not join the department until after the case in question had been dismissed.