Kevin McCarthy, Kevin Kiley urge Biden to withdraw Labor Secretary nominee

Julie Su has been nominated as U.S. Labor secretary, a move not popular with House Republicans.

Julie Su has been nominated as U.S. Labor secretary, a move not popular with House Republicans.

Getty Images for One Fair Wage/TNS

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and other California Republicans Thursday urged President Joe Biden to withdraw the nomination of California’s Julie Su as U.S. Labor Secretary, warning that if she is confirmed there are “potential disastrous ramifications at the federal level.”

McCarthy, a Bakersfield Republican, and the state GOP House members cited what he called “her misguided record in California.”

The plea was part of a four page letter also signed by two committee chairs: Jason Smith, R-Missouri, who heads the Ways and Means Committee, and Virginia Foxx, R-North Carolina, who chairs the Education and Workforce Committee.

Also signing were Rep. Kevin Kiley, R-Rocklin, who has led the effort to deny Su the Cabinet post, and nine other California House Republicans.

Kiley added his own complaint about Su in a statement: “The amount of suffering Su’s Labor Department inflicted on my constituents and millions of Californians should entirely disqualify Su from consideration.”

None of these House Republicans has a vote in whether Su is confirmed. That’s up to the Democratic-run Senate, where Su’s nomination is considered somewhat shaky. Democrats control 51 of the 100 seats. Su has been acting secretary. Previous secretary Marty Walsh left the job last month; Su had been deputy secretary.

Su’s confirmation hearing is expected to be held later this month before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. Chairman Bernie Sanders, Ind.-Vt., has said he has found her “eminently qualified.”

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-New York, met with Su last week.

Afterwards, he said, “Julie has been on the frontlines of protecting workers’ rights for years.”

Schumer praised her background. “From helping place people in good paying jobs, to doggedly fighting against wage theft, Julie knows the ins and outs of labor firsthand. She will use that knowledge to strengthen our workforce and our economy,” he said.

While she has won strong support from labor groups and is being pushed hard by Asian American interests, Su’s record as Secretary of California’s Labor and Workforce Development Agency during the COVID pandemic has come under fire.

Su’s agency included the embattled Employment Development Department, which was overwhelmed in 2020 by a sudden spike in unemployment claims and new federally-created programs.

EDD was heavily criticized for poor customer service and widespread unemployment claim fraud. Estimates are that scammers got up to $30 billion in fraudulent claims.

In the Senate, Republicans want to hear from her about the problems.

“I really felt that she almost enabled fraud in the unemployment compensation program by suspending all the safeguards,” said Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine. Collins, regarded as the Senate’s most moderate member. She is a member of the committee that will consider the Su selection.

The Republicans are also upset at her strong support of California’s law that requires most independent workers, such as child care workers, truck drivers, janitors and others, to be regarded as employees rather than freelancers or independent contractors.

As a result, they can be entitled to certain benefits from employers, as well as protection against unfair labor practices.

McCarthy in his letter cited recent congressional testimony from American Trucking Association President Chris Spear, said the policies “rob scores of hardworking entrepreneurs of the choice, dream and freedom to run their own business.”

Su has been cheered by workers rights groups for her work. In 2001, the MacArthur Foundation awarded Su a genius grant, citing her work in filing a major federal lawsuit that helped undocumented immigrants toiling in sweatshop conditions. She would win monetary compensation for her clients, as well as getting them legal immigrant status.

David Lightman is McClatchy’s chief congressional correspondent. He’s been writing, editing and teaching for nearly 50 years, with stops in Hagerstown, Maryland; Riverside, California; Annapolis; Baltimore; and, since 1981, Washington.

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