I had high hopes that a new Secretary of Labor would hit the ground running on Jan. 20.  I had visions of bright beams of light and positive energy radiating from the Department’s Frances Perkins building, as an Obama crew under Labor Secretary Hilda Solis’ leadership worked to restore DOL agencies’ dedication to workers.  I was ready to start watching DOL’s employees get back to their mission of ensuring that federal labor laws are enforced vigorously and enhanced appropriately to meet the conditions faced by workers today. 

Instead, day after day, I read on the DOL website:

A new Secretary of Labor hasn’t been confirmed.” 

The Politico’s Manu Raju was one of the first to report that Republican Senators may be using a procedural tactic to block Solis’ confirmation.   In GOP-ers may block Solis confirmation (Jan 16) Raju wrote:

“‘She answered no questions,’ said Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK.), a member of the Senate HELP Committee.  ‘If she won’t answer the questions, how can you support the nomination?'”

“‘These aren’t positions that you’re allowed not to have an opinion,’ Wyoming Sen. Michael Enzi, the ranking Republican on the committee.  ‘These are extremely critical things that she was asked about. Each of the people that asked questions from the Republican side asked about different areas of labor law and wondered what she was going to do. And we still don’t know.'”

Now, 16 days later, does anybody know the definitive status of Mrs. Solis’ confirmation?

A Jan 31 blog post by the Editorial Board of The New York Times alluded to the “hold” tactic as the reason for the delay.   Other journalists and bloggers also mention the secret “hold,” such as the Pasadena Star News:

“At least one unidentified Republican senator is using a parliamentary procedure to holdup Solis’ confirmation…”[Jan 23 article].”

and credit exposing the secret “hold” to Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO).   During debate on the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, Senator McCaskill said: 

“Imagine my frustration when I look at the nominations that are being held now in secret.  …There are now four women who are secretly being held from doing their jobs: Lisa Jackson at EPA, Nancy Sutley at White House Environmental Council, Hilda Solis for the Department of Labor, and Susan Rice for the Ambassador to the U.N.  …I implore the Senators who are secretly holding these women–by the way, those are almost all the women who have been nominated.  Proportionally, almost every woman who is being nominated is being secretly held, compared to the men who are nominated.”   [Congressional Record, 111th Congress, S753]

The day after Senator McCaskill delivered these remarks, Jackson, Sutley and Rice were confirmed, but not Hilda Solis.

Senator McCaskill’s mention of secrecy deserves repeating:  these “holds” by Senators are allowed to be secret, preventing the public from knowing which Senator(s) are responsible for the delay.  Come on boys!  If indeed one or more of you are holding up Mrs. Solis’ nomination, be a man and fess up.  Tell your Senate colleagues, the President and US the reason for your objections.  

While the employees at State, EPA, USDA, Education, Interior, VA HUD, etc., etc. are getting their marching orders from President Obama’s designees, the employees at OSHA, MSHA, ESA and other DOL agencies remain in limbo—still taking orders from former Bush/Chao appointee Howard Radzely.   I hope they don’t have to wait much longer for big changes.