Last night (Wednesday), Trump’s nominee for Secretary of Labour, Andrew Puzder, withdrew from consideration. The reason is likely that he did not have a snowball’s chance in hell of surviving his confirmation hearing, scheduled for Thursday, after even Mitch McConnell, the chief boot-licker in Congress, said that Puzder could not possibly win enough votes for confirmation. I wrote about Puzder back in early January, and did not view him as a good fit for the office. But my concerns, such as the fact that he is against raising minimum wage rates, supports repealing ACA, criticizes sick leave policies, and uses sexist advertising in his businesses, are not what doomed his nomination. No, what doomed his nomination was that he came out in support of legalized immigration! The man finally said one thing that made sense, and he is politically murdered for it! No less than seven Republican senators said they would not vote to confirm Puzder. Five of these seven actually voted to confirm the likes of DeVos and Sessions, however.
But Puzder is gone … good riddance … and this brings me to a potential bright spot on the otherwise dark horizon: Alexander Acosta, Trump’s choice to replace Puzder as nominee for Secretary of Labour. Everything I have read about Mr. Acosta points to a man who seeks to serve justice rather than to ‘win at all costs’. He appears to be a man who has the courage of his convictions, and I only wish he had been nominated for the position of Attorney General rather than the racist lout who was placed in that all-important position.
A bit about Acosta’s background:
- He is a Harvard Law School graduate who clerked for Judge Samuel Alito, at that time a judge for the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, for a year after graduation.
- He then worked for a D.C. law firm where he specialized in employment and labor issues.
- Appointed by President George W. Bush in 2002 and confirmed by the U.S. Senate, he served on the National Labour Relations Board.
- In 2003, he was appointed Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division of the United States Department of Justice.
- In 2005, he was appointed United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, where he served until 2009.
- Since 2009 he has served as Dean of dean of Florida International University College of Law.
- In 2012, Acosta participated in a panel discussion called Immigration Policy and the Hispanic Workforce, and he talked about the importance of creating a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.
I am particularly impressed by the stands he has taken in the area of civil rights, particularly the rights of immigrants. In 2011, Acosta testified before Congress about the importance of protecting the civil rights of Muslim Americans. He said to the committee that “we are a nation build [sic] on principles of freedom, and high on the list of freedoms is freedom of religious expression. Indeed, as is well known to this Committee, this freedom pre-dates our Constitution.” He goes on to talk about the importance of the president speaking up to defend Muslims.
“Our nation is strong because we respond to attack with resolve. History has shown the need, however, for leadership that tempers resolve with wisdom. President George W. Bush understood this, when on September 17, 2001, he visited the Islamic Center of Washington D.C. to remind a resolute nation that ‘those who feel like they can intimidate our fellow citizens to take out their anger…should be ashamed of that kind of behavior.’ This was not the message many Americans wanted to hear at that time, but the President chose to lead, rather than to be led.”
The senate has confirmed Acosta three times in the past, which is certainly encouraging, however the Acosta nomination is not without problems. The main one is likely to be the controversy over a plea bargain his office arranged in 2008 when he was a federal prosecutor in Miami. A case was brought against wealthy financier, Jeffrey Epstein, a billionaire investor accused of having sex with underage girls. Acosta agreed not to file any federal charges if Epstein pled guilty to state charges involving soliciting prostitution and soliciting a minor for prostitution. Epstein served 13 months of an 18 month sentence. The controversy came about because the teenagers Epstein paid for sex were never adequately consulted about the plea deal or given an opportunity to object to it. Not surprisingly, Trump has ties also to Epstein and while some claim that Trump and Epstein were friends, Trump denies it.
Setting the above controversy aside for the moment, it would otherwise seem that Acosta is, unlike all other Trump nominees, a good fit for the job. He is an advocate of civil rights, and has served in various labour-related positions, including the NLRB. So what, exactly, does the position of Secretary of Labour involve?
According to the United States Department of Labour:
“The Department of Labor (DOL) fosters and promotes the welfare of the job seekers, wage earners, and retirees of the United States by improving their working conditions, advancing their opportunities for profitable employment, protecting their retirement and health care benefits, helping employers find workers, strengthening free collective bargaining, and tracking changes in employment, prices, and other national economic measurements. In carrying out this mission, the Department administers a variety of Federal labor laws including those that guarantee workers’ rights to safe and healthful working conditions; a minimum hourly wage and overtime pay; freedom from employment discrimination; unemployment insurance; and other income support.”
I am not sure to what extent the Epstein controversy will play a role in Acosta’s confirmation hearings. For the final conclusion, you will have to … stay tuned!