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 AlexanderIn search of the surest Common Core exit route Democrats block energy spending bill over Iran amendment Overnight Finance: Puerto Rico pressure builds; Big tariff vote Wednesday MORE (Tenn.), Susan CollinsSusan CollinsSenate Dems accuse GOP of slow-walking Obama nominees Stoddard: Can Trump close the deal with the GOP? The Trail 2016: And then there was one MORE (Maine), Bob CorkerBob CorkerGOP senator to anti-Trump movement: 'Let this play out’ Housing groups argue Freddie Mac's loss should spur finance reform Iran and heavy water: Five things to know MORE (Tenn.), Mark KirkMark KirkKirk: Trump ‘a net benefit’ for me in Illinois Illinois voters should hold Sen. Mark Kirk accountable Senate Dems accuse GOP of slow-walking Obama nominees MORE (Ill.), John McCainJohn McCainKirk: Trump ‘a net benefit’ for me in Illinois Trump aide: Ryan not fit to be Speaker if he doesn't support Trump Missouri Republican: Trump has not earned my vote MORE (Ariz.) and Lisa MurkowskiLisa MurkowskiActivists target Google employees over GOP convention plans The Hill's 12:30 Report Bishop eyes new Puerto Rico bill after recess 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 RubioRomney meets with leader of third-party effort Trump on Jeb: 'I will not say he's low energy' Trump on Ryan snub: 'It doesn’t bother me at all’ 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 CardinThe Hill's 12:30 Report Overnight Energy: Obama drinks Flint water during visit Overnight Energy: Clinton takes on former coal industry CEO 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."