The U.S. Senate on Thursday confirmed Alexander Acosta as Secretary of Labor, by a vote of 60-38. Eight Democrats joined the Republican majority in voting for President Trump’s nominee, completing Trump’s Cabinet just shy of his 100th day in office.
Acosta, a former National Labor Relations Board member, also served as assistant attorney general for the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, and most recently as dean of the Florida International University (FIU) College of Law.
President Trump’s first pick for Secretary of Labor, Andrew Puzder (who was plagued by personal scandals), withdrew from the approval process hours before his scheduled Senate confirmation hearing, after it became clear he didn’t have the votes to secure confirmation.
As a result of this and other delays the administration has faced in getting a Secretary of Labor in place, the Department of Labor has been without a voice in the ongoing budget process. Because Acosta was only a nominee when Trump’s budget proposal was being prepared, he didn’t get to make recommendations about where cuts could occur. (See Trump Proposes ‘Substantial’ Budget Cut for DOL.)
Acosta has a deep understanding of labor and employment issues and should be able to hit the ground running, Leslie E. Silverman of Fortney & Scott told BLR® 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. 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, he said. (See Employment Lawyers Say Trump’s Pick to Head DOL Is Highly Qualified.)
Acosta addressed several DOL initiatives during his Senate committee confirmation hearing in late March, including 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.