by Natalia Castro
The Department of Labor needs an upgrade. As President Donald Trump makes important changes across the executive branch, the Department of Labor has remained a step behind, but it is not necessarily the department’s fault or even Secretary Alexander Acosta. It’s the Senate’s fault. The Senate has stalled the confirmation of Trump’s nominees to executive positions, such as the nominee Deputy Secretary of the Department of Labor, Patrick Pizzella. This has prevented necessary reforms from taking place and slowed the progress of the entire agency.
Patrick Pizzella has been the right choice for the Deputy Secretary for a long time.
Most recently, Pizzella has served as Acting Chairman of the Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA). Pizzella’s board hears cases regarding unfair labor practices, union representation, and arbitration appeals. Pizzella has avoided controversy in all of his positions, so it was no surprise in 2013 when a Democratic-majority Senate led by Harry Reid unanimously confirmed Pizzella to serve on the board by voice vote.
But under the Trump Administration, attempts by Senators to disrupt the confirmation process have left Pizzella stalled over and over again, making him a case study on Senate inefficiency.
President Trump nominated Pizzella on June 20, 2017, and the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions held a hearing less than a month later, reporting favorably on Pizzella. Following the July hearing, Committee Chairman Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) praised Pizzella, explained he “brings a wealth of relevant experience in both Democratic and Republican administrations.”
Yet despite these bipartisan words of affirmation, Pizzella was not placed on the Senate Executive Calendar until October, and an exact date was still never decided. Upon calling Senator Alexander’s office, staff claimed “Democrats are merely obstructing the agenda” and blamed the existence of “scheduling conflicts that make votes difficult.”
By January, Pizzella’s nomination had timed out when Senate entered recess, andPresident Trump resubmitted Pizzella’s nomination at the beginning of the year.
Over ten months after Pizzella’s initial job offer, the Senate has finally made a motion to begin the voting process for Pizzella expected this week, and it is a good thing because the department needs it.
The Department of Labor has been a recent center for controversy as some conservatives claim career Obama-era employees are preventing the Trump agenda from being achieved. Powerline blog writer Paul Mirengoff explains, “Acosta changed the Obama administration’s interpretation of independent contractors under the [Wages and the Fair Labor Standards Act] FLSA with respect to home health registries. However, to the consternation of Sen. Marco Rubio, he permits career employees to continuing using the Obama administration’s interpretation. No wonder those who deal with the Acosta Department of Labor refer to 2017 as Year Nine of the Obama DOL.”
While Acosta focuses on the big picture for the Department, he needs a Deputy Secretary like Pizzella to ensure employees are properly implementing the President’s agenda.
Under both Democratic and Republican administrations, Pizzella has been credited with improving employee efficiency and removing wasteful initiatives. Don Todd, former Deputy Assistant Secretary for Labor Department’s Office of Labor Management Standards during the George W. Bush Administration, applauded Pizzella’s act to modernize phone systems and increase unity between all levels of the Department of Labor.
By stalling Pizzella’s nomination, the Senate has prevented a critical member of the Trump administration from taking his position, leaving the entire agency behind. A minority in a single chamber of Congress cannot be allowed to halt the entire government. If Senate Republicans are truly committed to the Trump agenda, they must finally confirm Pizzella.
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Natalia Castro is a contributing editor at Americans for Limited Government.