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 AlexanderBipartisan gun measure survives test vote Overnight Healthcare: GOP plan marks new phase in ObamaCare fight Stoddard: The great Trump rebellion MORE (Tenn.), Susan CollinsSusan CollinsGun-control supporters plan next steps versus NRA House Republicans pushing gun control bill The Trail 2016: Berning embers MORE (Maine), Bob CorkerBob CorkerGOP senators: Brexit vote a wake-up call Bipartisan gun measure survives test vote Trump’s campaign shows hints of change MORE (Tenn.), Mark KirkMark KirkDuckworth settles retaliation lawsuit The Trail 2016: Berning embers Senate Dems link court fight to Congressional Baseball Game MORE (Ill.), John McCainJohn McCainGun-control supporters plan next steps versus NRA Report: Prominent neoconservative to fundraise for Clinton McConnell quashes Senate effort on guns MORE (Ariz.) and Lisa MurkowskiLisa MurkowskiKerry visits Arctic Circle to see climate impacts Senate panel clears EPA spending bill, blocking rules Momentum slows for major energy bill 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 RubioSunday shows preview: Next steps after Trump upheaval O'Malley gives Trump a nickname: 'Chicken Donald' Gun-control supporters plan next steps versus NRA 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 CardinGOP senators: Brexit vote a wake-up call Dems take over floor to protest Senate inaction on gun control Voinovich led charge against anti-Semitism 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."