By Whitney Teal
Thomas E. Perez, a former Montgomery County councilman, was confirmed as United States Labor Secretary Thursday afternoon by a 54-46 Senate vote, Politico reported.
Perez, who lives in Takoma Park, was nominated for the post in March, but his confirmation was stalled after senators questioned his work with the Justice Department, The Washington Times reported. Sen. David Vitter, R-Louisiana, said his work to enforce the Voter Registration Act was “spotty” and “partisan,” according to The Times.
Several Republican Senators tried to persuade their colleagues not to vote for Perez’s confirmation before Thursday’s vote amidst allegations that he is too partisan for the position, ABC News reported.
“He has demonstrated throughout his career that he’s willing to, in his words, to push the envelope to advance his ideology,” Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) said, ABC News reported.
President Barack Obama released the following statement Thursday:
"I welcome today’s confirmation of Tom Perez to serve as Secretary of Labor. Tom has lived the American dream himself, and has dedicated his career to keeping it within reach for hardworking families across the country. At the Department of Labor, Tom will help us continue to grow our economy, help businesses create jobs, make sure workers have the skills those jobs require, and ensure safe workplaces and economic opportunity for all.
"I want to thank the Senate once again for agreeing to move forward on Tom and the other nominees who have waited far too long for the yes-or-no votes they deserve."
U.S. Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Dist. 8) of Kensington said in a statement:
“Tom Perez has been fighting for Marylanders and Americans for as long as I’ve known him. He has been a tireless champion of families and businesses throughout his career as a public servant, and I am confident he will continue that work in his new role as Secretary of Labor. I look forward to working with him in our ongoing effort to put Americans back to work and boost economic growth.”
Perez, the son of immigrants from the Dominican Republic, was the first Latino to serve on the Montgomery County Council, representing Takoma Park, Silver Spring and Burtonsville. He was elected president of the council in 2005. Perez became an assistant attorney general in the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice in 2009 after more than two years as Maryland’s labor secretary.
Perez will be the only Latino in Obama’s cabinet, ABC News reported, taking the department’s helm after former labor Secretary Hilda Solis resigned in January.Read more: Former Montgomery County Councilman Tapped as U.S. Labor Secretary