Julie Su

Acting Labor Secretary Julie Su prepares to testify before the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee on April 20, 2023 in Washington, D.C.

(Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Manchin Says He'll Oppose Julie Su for Labor Secretary, Citing Her 'Progressive Background'

"Julie Su has already done what Sen. Manchin says she can't," Sen. Mazie Hirono argued, noting how the nominee "brought labor and industry together to avert a potentially catastrophic port strike."

Right-wing Democratic U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin said Thursday that he'll oppose President Joe Biden's nomination of Julie Su to head the Labor Department, a move that could torpedo the progressive acting secretary's confirmation chances in a divided Senate.

"I believe the person leading the U.S. Department of Labor should have the experience to collaboratively lead both labor and industry to forge compromises acceptable to both parties," Manchin (D-W.Va.)—a recurrent obstructor of his own party's agenda—said in a statement.

"While her credentials and qualifications are impressive, I have genuine concerns that Julie Su's more progressive background prevents her from doing this and for that reason I cannot support her nomination to serve as secretary of labor," he added.

Manchin's opposition does not necessarily sink Su's nomination. However, Sens. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Kyrsten Sinema (I-Ariz.) have not yet said if she will get their votes. She may not need them, as a 1946 law allows the deputy labor chief to indefinitely "perform the duties of the secretary until a successor is appointed."

Still, some Senate Democrats said they were optimistic about Su's confirmation chances.

"I think she'll be a very good labor secretary," Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Tuesday. "And we're working hard to get her approved."

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) toldNBC News that "she's gonna have enough votes. We're gonna confirm her."

Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) said in a statement that Su is "the most qualified candidate to be our next labor secretary."

"There is no one more ready and prepared to lead the department on day one than she is," Duckworth added.

As Roll Callreports:

Su's nomination has been the subject of lobbying by outside groups, according to first-quarter disclosures. At least 23 companies and interest groups lobbied on the nomination, including 10 that publicly oppose Su and nine that support her.

Groups opposing Su—including the National Restaurant Association, the National Federation of Independent Businesses, and the Flex Association, a group that represents rideshare companies—reported spending at least $3.4 million on lobbying in the first quarter of this year on the nomination and other policy issues.

Unions and civil rights groups have come to Su's defense, disclosing about $2.1 million on first-quarter lobbying spending. Supporters include the Service Employees International Union, American Federation of Government Employees, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, and the Society for Human Resource Management.

Su, who previously served as labor secretary of California and deputy U.S. labor secretary, made a name for herself representing some of the most vulnerable workers in the nation, including as the lead attorney in a case involving Thais trafficked in a Los Angeles-area sweatshop.

The 54-year-old has been serving as acting head of the Labor Department since former Labor Secretary Marty Walsh resigned in March to take a job leading the National Hockey League Players Association.

In April, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) asserted that opposition to Su "has nothing to do with her qualifications" and "everything to do with the fact that [she] is a champion of the working class who will stand up against the forces of corporate greed."

Last week, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights reaffirmed its support for Su, tweeting that "there is no one more prepared to move into this role and lead the department as it undertakes its critical mission to protect working people."

This is not the first time that Manchin—who is up for reelection next year and is widely suspected of considering a presidential run—has opposed one of Biden's Labor Department nominations. Along with Sinema and Sen. Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.), he effectively ended David Weil's bid to head the agency's Wage and Hour Division by voting last year against advancing his nomination.

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