A new U.S. Secretary of Labor has been confirmed after the resignation of former Secretary Alexander Acosta in July.
Eugene Scalia, a noted corporate lawyer, was confirmed to the labor secretary position earlier today (Sept. 26) by the U.S. Senate along party lines. The vote for Scalia’s confirmation was 53-44.
The son of the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, Eugene Scalia is no stranger to Washington politics. He has held multiple federal roles, most notably as the Solicitor of Labor in the Department of Labor during President George W. Bush’s administration.
Most recently, Scalia has been a partner at Gibson Dunn & Crutcher, where he headed up the firm’s administrative law and regulatory practice group. Previously, he co-led the firm’s labor practice. As part of the disclosure process for the labor secretary nomination, Scalia revealed that he earned more than $6.2 million in 2018.
Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) supported Scalia’s nomination, issuing a statement yesterday describing him as a “top legal mind, both in government and private practice.”
“Gene Scalia is one of the most capable and decent men I know in Washington. His dedication to the law and its just application is absolute,” Cotton says. “Working folks in this country deserve a Labor Secretary of such integrity and conviction and Gene Scalia will be just such a secretary.”
Gene Scalia is an old friend and mentor of mine. He is also a devoted husband and father, a brilliant lawyer, a fair-minded advocate for workers and the rule of law—and he is an outstanding choice to be our next Secretary of Labor. pic.twitter.com/1jUASygePm
— Tom Cotton (@SenTomCotton) September 25, 2019
Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) also cited Scalia’s experience in labor law as a strength he would bring to the role of labor secretary. “Eugene Scalia is well-qualified to the lead the Labor Department with a steady hand at a time when workers’ wages are up and unemployment is near record lows,” he said.
With a fantastic resume of experience in both the private and public sector, I have no doubt that Secretary Scalia will continue the good work already done @USDOL. My full statement here:https://t.co/2PMKKHNmEt
— Tim Scott (@SenatorTimScott) September 26, 2019
However, Senate Democrats pointed to defense of large corporations and trade groups, including Walmart, Juul and Facebook, as reason to doubt that he would represent the average American worker.
In a tweet, Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) said that Scalia will likely not be a champion for “fair wages, health care, retirement and safe working conditions.” She contends that his career has been centered on the defense of corporations.
Eugene Scalia built his career on attacking the rights of workers and defending wealthy corporations. He’s the wrong choice to lead the Department of Labor and I strongly oppose his nomination.
— Sen. Debbie Stabenow (@SenStabenow) September 26, 2019
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) bluntly called Scalia’s nomination a “slap to the face of the Labor Department.”
Eugene Scalia's nomination is a slap to the face of the Labor Department.@realDonaldTrump could have chosen a union member.
Instead, he nominated a corporate lawyer who has spent his career protecting the interests of CEOs, big corporations, the wealthy elite—not workers. pic.twitter.com/SJ3lVNXZkq
— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) September 26, 2019
Scalia is the first permanent Secretary of Labor since former Secretary Alexander Acosta resigned in July. Acosta resigned after revelations of alleged mishandling of a sex crimes case against Jeffrey Epstein while Acosta was a U.S. attorney in Florida.
After Acosta’s resignation, Patrick Pizzella has served as the acting Secretary of Labor since July 20. He has served as the Deputy Secretary of Labor since April 17, 2018 after being nominated by President Donald Trump and confirmed by the U.S. Senate.