To say the past few weeks have been tumultuous as the new Trump administration tries to gain traction would be an understatement. While “repeal and replace” Obamacare is getting top billing at the moment, it’s hard to predict what will take its place soon after.
Amidst all the noise that emanates from within the D.C. beltway lies a story that is not getting too much press but is something that could have far ranging effects on the business community. Since President Trump was elected in November, the process began to appoint, nominate and confirm members of his administration. By all measures the process has been slow. Some top positions are still vacant, and many sub-positions that would ultimately be filled by department chiefs are also waiting to be filled.
The slowness of the process creates anxiety, especially for the business community as it waits for a new Department of Labor secretary to be confirmed. Because new presidents typically fill this position soon after taking office (see table below), it would seem that the Senate would want to move forward to confirm a new secretary—and quickly.
President Trump’s original choice for the position, Andrew Puzder, withdrew his nomination amidst a sea of controversy. And now the new nominee, Alexander Acosta, will not appear before the committee of Health, Education, Labor and Pensions until March 22 since committee chair Lamar Alexander will be away with the president to attend a rally. The question that remains is the likelihood of Acosta being confirmed. Based on reports and other indications, it seems he will likely pass Senate muster.
R. Anthony Acosta, 48, is the dean of Florida International University College of Law. He was appointed by President George W. Bush to the National Labor Relations Board, served as Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights, and was a federal prosecutor for the Southern District of Florida. If confirmed, he would be the first Latino to join the Trump cabinet. Interestingly, several major unions have endorsed him, which seems to run counter to the overriding political rhetoric evident in the Trump administration.
Still, Acosta would likely have issues to address, most noticeably a 2008 investigation by the inspector general that involved hiring practices based on political affiliations. Another concern could be a letter he wrote to a federal judge in Ohio in 2004 which challenged the eligibility of African-American voters.
However, conventional wisdom says he will likely be confirmed. This development is important, because it will take the new secretary some time to set up shop and make appointments of his own. Once that process is complete, the business community should have a better idea of the department’s direction. Stay tuned!