On April 27, the Senate confirmed Alexander Acosta as secretary of labor by a vote of 60-38. Eight Democrats joined the Republican majority in voting for President Donald Trump’s nominee, completing Trump’s Cabinet just shy of his 100th day in office.
Acosta, a former National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) member, previously served as assistant attorney general for the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division. Most recently, he was dean of the Florida International University College of Law.
Acosta has a deep understanding of labor and employment issues and should be able to hit the ground running, Leslie E. Silverman, an attorney with Fortney & Scott, said following his nomination. “He brings a lot of day-to-day experience and expertise and I think he has the makings of a very responsible Secretary of Labor,” added David S. Fortney, a cofounder of Fortney & Scott and an editor of Federal Employment Law Insider. Acosta has a broad depth of knowledge of the workplace and will be able to navigate the intersection of policy implementation and enforcement thoughtfully and responsibly, Fortney said.
Acosta addressed several U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) initiatives during his Senate committee confirmation hearing in late March, including the new overtime rules currently stuck in judicial limbo, but offered few details about his plans for them. He did, however, call into question the DOL’s authority to set an overtime salary threshold at all. “I think the authority of the secretary to address this is a separate issue from what the correct amount is,” he said.
As a result of delays the administration has faced in getting a labor secretary in place, the DOL has been without a voice in the ongoing budget process. Because Acosta was only a nominee when President Trump’s budget proposal was being prepared, he didn’t get to make recommendations about where budget cuts should occur.
President Trump’s first pick for secretary of labor, Andrew Puzder, was plagued by personal scandals. He withdrew from the approval process hours before his scheduled Senate confirmation hearing after it became clear he didn’t have enough votes to secure confirmation.