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This Biden Nominee Is Still in Trouble

AP Photo/Susan Walsh

President Joe Biden has made it a habit of nominating cabinet members and judges based not necessarily on their accomplishments or ability to do the job, but on characteristics such as their race, sex, or sexual orientation. The president himself has proudly declared that he is into that leftist buzzword of "equity." That his administration has yet to include an Asian-American in his cabinet has been particularly felt, then. While Biden has nominated one, she could very well be in trouble. Not only does it appear that Republicans will likely unify in opposing her, but some Democrats may very well oppose her as well. In a closely-divided Senate, that may be all that it takes.

As has been covered before, Biden's nominee for Labor Secretary, Julie Su who is looking to replace outgoing Secretary Marty Walsh, still looks to be in trouble, even as her confirmation hearing before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP), scheduled to take place on April 20, is fast approaching.Tuesday morning's edition of POLITICO's Playbook discussed "The fight to restock Biden’s Cabinet," with Su being front and center. 

Su, who also previously served as Secretary of the California Labor and Workforce Development Agency, was narrowly confirmed as the Deputy Labor Secretary. As mention by POLITICO, "White House surrogates are being told to push two points in particular: (1) Su has proven herself as deputy secretary over the last two years and (2) if you liked Marty Walsh, you’ll be pleased with Su, who plans to keep pushing similar policies."

That she was confirmed before, not this close to an election year when vulnerable members such as Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV), Jon Tester (D-MT) and Krysten Sinema (I-AZ) were up for reelection, may not be as important as the White House wants to make it. This is a new role now, and those members don't appear to have fully gotten on board yet in confirming Su. 

"I already voted to confirm her to be the deputy secretary of labor," he told Bloomberg Law last month. "But this is obviously a different job and I’m taking a look at it," Tester had told Bloomberg Law last month. 

Manchin looks to be the one to watch in particular, as has been the case for weeks now. Playbook mentions they've been told that the nominee has yet to meet with the senator. This is the same complaint that Republican members on the HELP committee have had, as Bloomberg Law detailed in a separate report. 

And Manchin looks to remain uncertain until he meets with her. If he needs some persuasion, timing could mean everything:

“Nothing matters until he sits down with her,” a person close to Manchin who is familiar with his deliberations. “A nominee like that, he’s going to be 50/50 until he sits down and meets with her. And then he’s going to call every labor person he’s close with. But the AFL sending out a letter, he just doesn’t care about that. They don’t have a huge presence in West Virginia.”

But there are union leaders who can be persuasive to Manchin — including United Mine Workers President CECIL ROBERTS, who strongly backed Su in a Friday letter, as well as American Federation of Teachers President RANDI WEINGARTEN, a close friend of Manchin and his wife, GAYLE.

“Get in there right away, because if he has a problem, you have time to fix it,” the person added. “You have time for Randi and Cecil and everybody else to weigh in. But if you get in there three days before the vote, then no.”

This isn't merely a matter of Democrats in disarray, though. Su's record doesn't help her chances of confirmation either. Republicans have reasons to reject her nomination beyond playing a game of partisan politics. A recently-formed coalition, Stand Against Su has gone through great lengths to highlight such concerns. 

One of Su's biggest impediments is her how she handled, or rather mishandled her running the Employment Development Department, which involved fraud and forces businesses to pay even higher taxes in California. Here's what the coalition had to say:

Under Su’s watch as Secretary of the California Labor and Workforce Development Agency, California suffered the most significant fraud on taxpayer funds in state history. When California’s Employment Development Department (EDD), overseen by Su, failed to address tens of thousands of pandemic-related unemployment claims, an emergency audit uncovered rampant fraud throughout the system. While hard-working Californians had struggled to pay for gas and groceries, criminals, including death row inmates, received millions of dollars in payments from the state. In total, nearly $40 billion was stolen from taxpayers in the form of fraudulent unemployment payments. Su was named in the state audit for her failed leadership which led to this unprecedented failure.

F. Vincent Vernuccio also mentioned these concerns in an April 15 column for Townhall, which the account for Stand Against Su retweeted:

In California, Su was secretary for the Labor and Workforce Development where she oversaw the Employment Development Department with deals involving unemployment insurance claims. She did not shine in this role, as even members of her own party will point out.

California Democratic Assemblywoman Cottie Petrie-Norris of Laguna Beach, for instance, said that Su “has not done a good job at running the Employment Development Department and, as a result, has wasted billions of dollars and, more importantly, caused heartache for millions of Californians.”

A report for the California Business & Industrial Alliance (CBIA) pointed out that a state auditor had “urged EDD to address its mailing system after millions of Social Security Numbers were included in a mailing sent to wrong addresses.” Unfortunately, “Under Su, the EDD did not prioritize addressing the auditor’s recommendation,” and thus when the COVID shutdowns happened, the system was dysfunctional and trust in her leadership was compromised.

Su herself eventually admitted the department was “woefully unprepared” to handle those claims. The price tag for this oversight was massive. It is estimated that fraudulent payments amounted to more than $11 billion. This included more than $1 billion to inmates, including prisoners on death row.

It gets worse. “The state auditor noted that much of this money is untraceable and will not be recouped by the state,” explained CBIA.

Another common concern is Su's support for California's AB 5, which forced businesses to treat independent contractors and freelancers as employees. Stand Against Su warned that the nominee has said AB 5 "will be a model for the country.” 

The coalition has addressed still even more areas, such as Other concerns raised by the coalition include her wanting to eliminate the tipped minimum wage, stance on border security, and how her "hatred of capitalism is evident in her anti-business rhetoric and record[.]"

And, as the coalition framed it in their most recent tweet on Tuesday, confirming Su for such a position would mean promoting her for bad behavior.

It's not merely cabinet members, though. Biden's judicial nominees are also in trouble with the absence of Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), who has been out since early March and who served on the Senate Judiciary Committee, though Feinstein's absence also doesn't help the vote in trying to confirm Su.

From the Senate floor on Tuesday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) emphasized though that Democrats' inability to confirm judicial nominees without Feinstein's vote applies to "the small fraction of their nominees who are so extreme, so extreme, and so unqualified, that they cannot win a single Republican vote in committee." He reiterated that "the far Left wants the full Senate to remove a senator off of a committee so that they can ram through a small sliver of their nominees who are especially extreme or especially unqualified."


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