Labor Nominee's Hearing Off as Husband's Tax Liens Surface

By Michael A. Fletcher
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, February 6, 2009

A Senate committee yesterday abruptly called off a session to consider President Obama's nomination of Rep. Hilda Solis (D-Calif.) to be labor secretary after learning that her husband had paid about $6,400 to settle tax liens, some on file as long as 16 years.

Solis's confirmation vote before the Senate's Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee had already been delayed for weeks by questions over her role as unpaid treasurer of a pro-labor organization and her support of a hotly contested measure that would make it easier for workers to organize unions.

The White House defended Solis, saying that the taxes paid Wednesday were for the Los Angeles area auto repair business owned solely by her husband, Sam Sayyad. "If you owe taxes . . . you should pay them," said Obama press secretary Robert Gibbs. "But at the same time, this obviously is a business that she's not a partner in and we're not going to hold her responsible for."

Deputy press secretary Tommy Vietor added that Sayyad chose to settle the liens -- first reported by USA Today -- even though he believes he had previously paid the taxes and fees. He said Sayyad "does not believe the penalties were correctly assessed" and plans to appeal.

Tax difficulties had already caused problems for three of Obama's top nominees, causing two of them -- Thomas A. Daschle, Obama's choice to run the Department of Health and Human Services, and Nancy Killefer, who was to be chief performance officer -- to withdraw.

No new date has been set for the committee to consider Solis's nomination. "We will continue to work together to move this nomination forward as soon as possible," said a joint statement by the panel's chairman, Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.), and its ranking Republican, Michael Enzi (Wyo.).

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