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Nation/World

July 18, 2013

Senate clears hurdle for Labor secretary nominee

(Continued)

Minutes earlier, senators voted 82-17 to approve Fred Hochberg to a second four-year term to head the Export-Import Bank, which provides financing for U.S. exporters.

“We have now started a new era, I hope, a new normal here in the Senate” of increased bipartisan cooperation, said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., as the day began.

But a day after the agreement on nominations was announced and largely hailed by both parties, conservatives and other Republicans made their unhappiness with Perez — and the overall deal — clear.

“Why would you want somebody in the Cabinet thumbing their noses at the elected representatives of the people of this country,” Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa, one of the chamber’s senior Republicans, said of Perez.

“It seems to me the implication is we’re supposed to simply routinely rubber-stamp everyone,” said Sen. Patrick Toomey, R-Pa. “There can’t be any objections ever, whatsoever. Well, that’s not what the Constitution calls for.”

Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., said Perez and the Justice Department had responded to all “reasonable requests” from Congress for information and said, “He’s a professional, he listens and tries to make the right judgment.”

In exchange for cooperation on the nominations, majority Democrats have dropped a threat, for now, to change Senate rules to weaken minority Republicans’ powers. They had been threatening to muscle through a rules change eliminating the need to get 60 votes to free a nomination for final approval.

The pact only addressed the seven initial nominees and left open the possibility that confrontations would emerge anew over future Obama nominations that could spark controversy, such as for federal judges or to head the Internal Revenue Service or Department of Homeland Security.

Votes on Gina McCarthy, Obama’s choice to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, were also expected this week.

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