The Senate voted 60-40 Wednesday, narrowly ending debate on the controversial nomination of Tom Perez to be secretary of Labor.
Republicans agreed to hold an up-or-down vote on his nomination as part of a deal to avoid Senate rule changes limiting the minority's right to filibuster executive branch nominees.
The close vote — 60 votes were needed to move the nomination forward — came after several GOP senators complained that Perez has engaged in “ethically questionable” actions while heading the Civil Rights division of the Department of Justice.
GOP Sens. Lamar AlexanderLamar AlexanderAmerican technology leadership: We can't take it for granted GOP senators: Obama bathroom guidance is 'not appropriate' McConnell touts 'Senate squad' in Wes Anderson-style video MORE (Tenn.), Susan CollinsSusan CollinsGOP lawmaker: 'Republicans were wrong’ to block Garland Senate passes broad spending bill with .1B in Zika funds Senators unveil bill to overhaul apprenticeship programs MORE (Maine), Bob CorkerBob CorkerSenate GOP ties Iran sanctions fight to defense bill Business groups push White House, Congress to improve US-India relationship The Trail 2016: Dems struggle for unity MORE (Tenn.), Mark KirkMark KirkGOP senators propose sending ISIS fighters to Gitmo VA chief 'deeply' regrets if Disney comment offended vets Senate GOP gears up for fight over Gitmo transfers MORE (Ill.), John McCainJohn McCainOvernight Defense: Pentagon chief fears sequestration's return Groups urge Senate to oppose defense language on for-profit colleges Pelosi, Dems rush to defense of Wasserman Schultz MORE (Ariz.) and Lisa MurkowskiLisa MurkowskiOvernight Energy: Lawmakers closing in on chemical safety deal GOP chair pushes Obama official on Arctic drilling plan McConnell touts 'Senate squad' in Wes Anderson-style video MORE (Alaska) voted with Democrats to advance Perez in his nomination process. There will be 30 hours of debate before a final vote on Perez's nomination unless time is yielded back, meaning the vote could happen as early as Thursday evening.
Sen. Marco RubioMarco RubioSenate GOP ties Iran sanctions fight to defense bill Analysis: Pa. senator missed most Budget Committee hearings Susana Martinez fires back at Trump MORE (R-Fla.) urged his Republican colleagues to ignore the deal made to allow up-or-down votes on several of Obama’s executive branch nominees.
“This is the Labor department,” Rubio shouted on the Senate floor. “I am shocked that there are members of my own conference that are willing to go forward on this nominee.”
Rubio said Perez failed to answer lawmakers’ questions during his confirmation hearing.
“We’re being asked to vote to invoke cloture on the nomination of someone who has open contempt to a congressional subpoena,” Rubio said. “This is wrong. How can we possibly — I don’t care what deal was cut — how can we move forward on someone who hasn’t provided information asked for by a congressional committee?”
Sen. Tom HarkinTom HarkinDo candidates care about our health or just how much it costs? The Hill's 12:30 Report Mark Mellman: Parsing the primary processes MORE (D-Iowa) said Rubio’s claim that Perez is violating a congressional subpoena is “just plain wrong.” Harkin said Perez submitted the 35 emails in question to the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee and that the Department of Justice now has the emails from his personal account on file.
Sen. Ben CardinBen CardinSenate GOP ties Iran sanctions fight to defense bill Lawmakers push to elevate Cyber Command in Senate defense bill Baltimore police officer cleared in Freddie Gray case MORE (D-Md.) defended Perez’s history of public service.
“Tom Perez has a long history of public service,” Cardin said. “He is a good person who is in public service for the right reasons. … As secretary of Labor, he will use that position to provide the balance we need in our commercial communities … so everyone can benefit from our great economy.”
Republicans have accused Perez of intervening in two court cases for his own "political agenda."