Well, that didn’t take long.
This morning, the biggest political story in Washington was a Republican National Committee “autopsy” of the GOP’s 2012 election loss. In it, the RNC proclaimed that “[i]t is imperative that the RNC changes how it engages with Hispanic communities to welcome in new members of our Party” and that “the Republican Party must be committed to building a lasting relationship within the African American community year-round, based on mutual respect and with a spirit of caring.” Within a few hours, three top Republicans already took the first steps to doom this effort.
Earlier today, President Obama nominated Assistant Attorney General Tom Perez to be the next Secretary of Labor. Perez is eminently qualified for this job, having served in a similar role for the state of Maryland before becoming the top civil rights attorney in the Justice Department. As head of DOJ’s Civil Rights Division, Perez restored that office’s historic commitment to protecting voting rights — something that was notably absent during the Bush Administration. In 2012, Perez’s division claims to have brought “the largest number of new [voting] litigation matters in any fiscal year ever” — 43 new voting rights cases — many of them protecting the voting rights of the very same minority groups the GOP claims it wants to form relationships with. Perez also brings a compelling personal story to the Department of Labor. As the President explained in his speech nominating the Secretary-in-waiting, Perez is the son of Dominican immigrants and helped pay for college by working as a garbage collector.
So, of course, several top Republicans are already trying to scuttle his nomination.
Before the President even announced Perez’s nomination, Sen. Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III (R-AL) released a statement attacking him for serving as President of the Board of an organization that advocates on behalf of low-income immigrants and Latinos. The words “illegal immigrant” appear three times in Sessions’ statement, which is barely more than a paragraph long.
Not long thereafter, Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) raised the specter of Perez supposedly sticking up for scary black men. According to Vitter, “Thomas Perez’s record should be met with great suspicion by my colleagues for his spotty work related to the New Black Panther case,” an allegation that does far more to discredit Vitter than Perez. Two separate investigations, one of which was released just last week, concluded that DOJ acted entirely without improper motive when it dismissed this case. And even if DOJ had acted inappropriately, it is hard to see how these actions impugn Perez. The decision to drop most of the allegations against the New Black Panther defendants — the decision that many on the far right now object to — happened on May 18, 2009. Perez did not take over the Civil Rights Division until the next October.
Vitter’s statement, which also criticizes Perez for not doing more to purge voters from voter registrars, indicates that the senator will block Perez’s nomination.