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Tipsheet

Biden's Labor Secretary Nominee Remains in Peril After Brutal Takedown

AP Photo/Susan Walsh

We've covered at length how Julie Su's nomination to be President Joe Biden's Secretary of Labor is in trouble, and now that she's had her confirmation hearing with the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) on Thursday, it doesn't look like her chances of getting confirmed have gotten any better.

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Shortly before the confirmation hearing, the HELP Committee GOP account tweeted out a slew of talking points about Su's failures as Secretary of the California Labor and Workforce Development Agency. 

It only got more brutal during her actual hearing, especially during her exchange with Sen. Markwayne Mullin (R-OK). 

Su could not answer to her past written comments about corporations or a belief about America being "built on white privilege and systemic racial subordination," despite the senator giving her multiple opportunities. "If you can't answer 'heck no' on this, Ms. Su, then that's a huge problem," Mullin said. "Because just like our chairman [Bernie Sanders] sometimes leads with the gavel with a biased opinion towards labor, you also will lead... as Secretary of Labor, our Labor Department, with bias, because you cannot say those types of statements like that and represent all sides."

What Su could answer to, eventually, was her lack of experience. She admitted to Mullin that she has not been an employer of a business. Likewise, she has not "created or balanced a budget for a business," something she acknowledged only after awkwardly shaking her head when Mullin said "I'm going to take that as a 'no'" in response to her particularly long pause. 

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As the senator asked her more questions she could not answer with a 'yes' to, which would seem like necessary qualifiers for such a nominee, Su looked visibly caught off guard, at least until Mullin pointed out he was "trying to make a point" in response to Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-VT) claiming earlier that this nominee was qualified. 

Throughout the exchange, Mullin spoke to his own experience as a business owner, also sharing how he has had his "business model threatened by the federal government's overreach of regulations," which is what he says "drove me here today."

She also didn't quite tell the truth about how she handled unemployment fraud in California, which has been one of the chief concerns against her.

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Not only does Su come off as extreme in her views, but as less than forthcoming, and also unqualified. Such is a theme for Biden nominees at the cabinet and judicial level as we've seen, especially when nominees are chosen not necessarily for qualifications based on merit, but because of race or sex. Su would be the administration's first Asian-American cabinet member. 

Sen. Roger Marshall (R-KS), who also sits on the committee, provided Townhall with a statement about the hearing. 

His exchange discussed fraud concerns, during which she tried to weasel her way out of the problem by claiming she'll do better as secretary, though she took her time answering his questions when she did answer them. 

"I opposed Julie Su when she was nominated for Deputy Secretary of Labor, and I am certainly not going to support her unjustified promotion," Senator Marshall said. "Su is incompetent. She played a role in the botched railroad union talks and has no real record of success negotiating within the labor sector. Her time in CA shows a history of severe mismanagement of billions of COVID-19 relief funds. She does not have the experience needed to fulfill this position and will negatively impact our small businesses and franchises, worsening the economic crisis this Administration created."

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Outside organizations are also speaking out against her nomination, including a coalition known as Stand Against Su. "Whether she was denying responsibility for her role in California's $40B pandemic unemployment insurance fraud, defending her support of AB 5, or failing to adequately explain her position on joint employer policy, Julie Su's testimony at today's hearing confirms her anti-business, anti-worker agenda," said the coalition. "The American workforce deserves a Secretary of Labor who will act as an advocate, not a roadblock, for innovation and expansion. Julie Su is unfit, underqualified, and a poor choice for the position."

The coalition has been at the forefront of highlighting concerns with Su, including her role in California's unemployment insurance fraud and the resulting higher taxes; her support for California's AB 5 which forces independent contractors and freelancers to be treated as full-time workers; her wanting to eliminate the tipped minimum wage; her stance on border security; and how her "hatred of capitalism is evident in her anti-business rhetoric and record[.]"

Tom Manzo, President and Founder of the California Business and Industrial Alliance (CABIA), also released a statement after the hearing on Thursday. His organization, like Stand Against Su has done, has also released ads

"Today, the Senate HELP Committee held a fiery hearing on the confirmation of Julie Su as U.S. Secretary of Labor. To no surprise, Su attempted to view her tenure as California Labor Secretary through rose colored glasses and failed to accept responsibility for overseeing the largest unemployment fraud in the state's history," Manzo said. "Su's incompetence and lack of leadership, coupled with her support for anti-worker, anti-business policies should be enough for the committee to reject her nomination. I am hopeful the committee will come to the right conclusion and hold her accountable by opposing Julie Su for U.S. Secretary of Labor."

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Manzo may indeed have reason to hope. It's not merely Sens. Mullin and Marshall who are opposed to Su's nomination. Republicans appear to be uniformly opposed, and those Republican members on the HELP committee were particularly frustrated that she had still not met with them just a little over a week before the hearing. 

Even more damning is that Democrats may sink Su's nomination as well. The more moderate Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia has not only not signaled his support, but has expressed reservations about her as well. 

As an NBC News report from last month highlighted:

Manchin said he was open to a vote on Su and open to meeting with her. But he made it clear that his comfort with Walsh at the top of the Labor Department was part of why he supported Su as his deputy.

“I had Marty Walsh,” Manchin said when asked about his vote for Su as deputy. He added that he wants someone like Walsh in the job going forward: “I had Marty Walsh and I am looking for a Marty Walsh.”

More recent reports from Axios and The Washington Post have also noted that Manchin may vote against her, citing unnamed sources.

The White House talking points have been to remind that Su had enough votes to be confirmed as the deputy to former Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh. But, she was confirmed to such a position back in July of 2021, narrowly and on a partisan basis. This role is not only a promotion, but the vote is taking place close to a presidential election year and when particularly vulnerable members like Manchin--should he run again--and Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) are up for reelection. 

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