A Senate committee approved Labor secretary nominee Alexander Acosta on Thursday, advancing the confirmation process for one of President Trump’s last remaining Cabinet slots.
Members of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee voted 12-11 along party lines in favor of Acosta, a former U.S. attorney from Miami. Republicans supported his nomination and Democrats opposed it. The approval means that Acosta’s nomination must now be voted on by the full Senate. The date for that vote has not been set.
If confirmed, the Cuban American would be the only Hispanic member of Trump’s Cabinet.
Acosta, who is a law school dean at Florida International University, has faced less controversy than Trump’s first pick for the Labor Department, fast-food executive Andrew Puzder. But workers advocates and Democrats say they would still concerned that Acosta, 48, may not do enough to protect workers.
“I’m glad this is not Andrew Puzder,” said Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), the ranking Democrat on the Senate committee, before voting against Acosta’s nomination. Still, she said she was “deeply concerned” Acosta would not be willing to stand up to the Trump administration on policies that could affect workers.
Acosta did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Republicans praised Acosta as someone who would help the Trump administration roll back some of the rules introduced under President Barack Obama that they view as obstacles to job growth. “The issue for workers today is not whether they belong to a union, it is whether they have the skills to adapt to the changing marketplace and to create, find, or keep good-paying jobs,” said Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, in a statement Thursday.
At Acosta’s confirmation hearing last week, senators questioned him about his work record and his views on some of the Obama-era labor rules that have been pending since the election. Acosta said he would follow Trump’s guidance on those rules, including a regulation that would restrict the investment advice given to retirement savers and a rule determining which workers are eligible for overtime pay.
Senators also asked the nominee about how he would handle the budget cuts proposed by Trump, including possible reductions for Job Corps, a program that provides education and job training to disadvantaged youths. Acosta also touted the benefits of job training programs, but said that he would rely on data to determine which programs are effective.