September 24, 2023
It’s been nearly four months since President Joe Biden nominated Julie Su to become labor secretary, and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has not yet set a date to hold a vote on the floor, a key sign that her nomination still doesn’t have the votes.

It’s been nearly four months since President Joe Biden nominated Julie Su to become labor secretary, and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has not yet set a date to hold a vote on the floor, a key sign that her nomination still doesn’t have the votes.

But Senate Democrats and the White House are projecting optimism as they attempt to sway moderates who have been noncommittal.


“Her nomination is on track, but we need everybody here to vote,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) told the Washington Examiner on Thursday while leaving the Capitol after a vote. “I absolutely think she’ll make it through, she’s going to be a terrific secretary of labor.”

Su appeared before the House Education and Workforce Committee for nearly four hours on Wednesday and faced tough questions from House Republicans. The purpose of her testimony was supposed to be on a White House proposal that would raise the Labor Department’s budget by $1.5 billion.

However, Republicans on the panel utilized their time to dig into the array of issues raised by opponents of her nomination to become labor secretary instead of the spending plan. They zeroed in on what they saw as her agency’s lack of cooperation with the House panel’s request for information and reports of child labor violations involving immigrants, among other matters.

If confirmed, Su would become the first Asian American member of Biden’s Cabinet at the secretary level. The administration is the first in more than 20 years not to have an Asian American Cabinet secretary. Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI), who has expressed her displeasure with the lack of Asian Americans in the Cabinet, pointed to Su’s performance before the House committee as a reason why she should be confirmed as the next secretary of labor.

“She did really well and I think the Republicans were thinking that they were going to find some ammunition to do her in and they did not succeed,” Hirono said, speaking to the Washington Examiner on Thursday. “She comported herself. She is doing the job. I’d like to see her confirmed.”

The White House has intensified its lobbying efforts in recent weeks, reaching out to senators and regularly speaking with Schumer, although it’s still unclear which specific senators they are trying to sway.

Many centrist and independent senators are still weighing whether to support Su’s nomination. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) would not answer questions from the Washington Examiner about the future of Su’s nomination or how he intends to vote, but he has previously told the Biden administration he has deep reservations about her, according to sources with knowledge of the matter.

Manchin’s potential opposition, combined with one other Democratic defection, could halt Su’s confirmation. She needs at least 50 votes in the Senate, in which Democrats have a slim 51-49 hold over Republicans. It’s unclear where other moderates such as Sens. Jon Tester (D-MT), Angus King (I-ME), Kyrsten Sinema (I-AZ), and Mark Kelly (D-AZ) stand. Manchin, Sinema, King, Kelly, and Tester all supported her for the deputy post in 2021.

“I met with her, I’m still listening to folks, I did vote for her in her deputy post, but I have a policy of not previewing how I’m going to vote ahead of time,” said Kelly on Thursday as he walked into a vote.

Tester told the Hill that he still is weighing a decision, but he also said if Su lacks the votes, the White House needs to consider starting the process over and pulling her nomination.

“I’m still looking, still taking input,” Tester said. “Are we ever going to vote for her? I don’t know/ I have no idea/ I have not been playing in that sandbox at all. I’m just taking input from Montanans.”

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre emphasized on Wednesday that Biden has “confidence that she will get through.”

“This is a full-court press to get Julie confirmed. Outside groups continue to – to also push her forward. And certainly, she will get the support from the White House as well as from this President,” Jean-Pierre said. “We are confident, and we’re going to continue to move forward.”

A group of more than 70 lawmakers who are part of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, Congressional Black Caucus, Congressional Hispanic Caucus, and Democratic Women’s Caucus sent Senate leadership a letter on Wednesday urging them to confirm her.

Schumer did not answer questions from reporters Wednesday about whether he plans to hold a vote on her nomination, but he emphasized he still believes there’s a way for Su to win the number of votes needed.

“Look, she’s a great nominee, and we are going to do everything we can to help her get confirmed,” Schumer said.

However, some Republicans aren’t so sure her nomination is moving forward.

“I don’t even know where her nomination stands currently, if it is even advancing to a Senate vote. I haven’t had a chance to speak with my colleagues about it,” said Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), who has been viewed by some as a potential swing voter even though she voted against Su in April at the committee level. “I spoke to the White House some time ago about Su, but I’m not sure what the Democrats are doing. I’m waiting on them.”

Su’s nomination passed out of committee this April with no Republican votes and has been stalled ever since. Republican senators who voted against her nomination in committee took issue with her treatment of independent contractors and said she had not established good enough relationships with the business community as California’s labor secretary. Several also highlighted the amount of fraud in the unemployment program in California during the pandemic.


Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), who has publicly come out against Su’s nomination, said she had no knowledge of what is coming next.

“I’m not voting for her, and I have absolutely no idea what is happening and whether there will be a vote on the Senate floor,” Collins said.

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