To insist on at least some standards of political acceptability, to protect the Senate’s constitutional prerogatives, and especially to honor the rule of law itself, Senate Republicans are duty-bound to block, by any procedural means necessary, the nomination of Thomas Perez to be Secretary of Labor.
Several blockbuster new developments add to the already compelling case against Perez. Several old outrages, seen correctly, provide yet more grounds for a pitched battle against him.
The Senate should block Perez because he is outlandishly radical, because he flouted the law by misusing private email accounts, because he improperly manipulated a case due for Supreme Court review, because he ignored several lawful subpoenas from other branches of government, and because he misled Congress under oath several times.
Alone, any one of these Perez controversies should be enough to raise serious doubts about his fitness for a Cabinet post. Together, they make it not just advisable but imperative for the Senate to reject his nomination.
Much more could be written on each controversy; what follows here is just a thumbnail list -- and not even a fully comprehensive one.
The latest blockbuster, i.e. the email scandal: First, it is against the law for government officials to conduct government business on private emails -- yet Perez apparently did so as many as 1,200 times! Worse, Perez is now ignoring a congressional subpoena to release the emails in question. The use of private emails should disqualify him; the snubbing of a congressional subpoena should disqualify him; together, they should not just disqualify him, but make him subject to criminal investigation.
The ethically dubious interference with a Supreme Court case: Apart from the procedural violations, the substance of the emails appears equally explosive, as highlighted several times by the Wall Street Journal. In brief, in a complicated quid pro quo, Perez bullied the city of St. Paul, Minnesota, into dropping a case that surely would have resulted in defeat for one of his pet, radical, race-based legal theories, in a way the WSJ described as “a story of how political muscle undermined the rule of law.”
Other refusals to comply with lawful subpoenas: The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights (USCCR), a quasi-independent agency created by Congress as an exertion of congressional oversight responsibilities, has full subpoena power over all federal departments, which by law “must” comply with the commission’s demands. Yet Perez numerous times not only ignored USCCR subpoenas, but ordered individual staffers to do the same, against their own interests and at considerable personal legal cost to them.
The Black Panther case: The USCCR subpoenas involved one of the most blatant, high-profile cases of politicized justice in the past four years. For some odd reason, senators do not seem to want to touch the infamous New Black Panther voter intimidation case with a 99-foot pole -- but the case is a perfect microcosm of Perez’ agenda of pushing unequal justice under a warped misapplication of the law.
Racial (in)justice: Perez himself admitted to the Justice Department Inspector General that he does not think voting rights laws are meant to protect white people (see citation at the 2:04 mark of this Lou Dobbs interview). He certainly ran a department where the idea of deliberately racially-weighted justice ran rampant.
Radical abuse of the heroic Fire Department of New York -- to the detriment of public safety and of qualified black (!) applicants, too: This, to me, is the most explosive of all Perez’s outlandish actions: Even when public safety is of paramount importance, he has pushed the FDNY to hire applicants who miss as many as 70 percent (!) of questions on a fire academy entrance exam testing absolutely basic knowledge and ability. Even liberal Mayor Bloomberg is up in arms -- and even the left-wing Village Voice devoted a whole cover story to how Perez’s actions helped lead to denial of jobs for black applicants who actually were qualified and did play by the rules. As I’ve reported numerous times, this is part of a widespread pattern of Perez abusing municipal police and fire departments for illegitimate, radically leftist ideological ends.
Improper hiring practices: Even though the Inspector General found no hard evidence of law-breaking, the IG report left no doubt -- as had been reported earlier even by the New York Times -- that under Perez, the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice deliberately skewed the hiring practices of “career” employees to completely shut out anybody without leftist views. Reported the Times: “During the first two Obama years, none of the new hires listed conservative organizations, while more than 60 percent had liberal credentials.” (Of course, the real story is even worse than the NYT portrayed -- as reported here.) When the Bush Justice Department took political considerations into account -- to far less skewed eventual results than Perez achieved -- the establishment media breathlessly treated it as a major scandal.
Attempted trampling on religious liberty: It is extraordinarily rare for an administration to be so thoroughly smacked down by a unanimous (!) Supreme Court in a major First Amendment case as the Obama administration was in the Hosanna-Tabor case, a “ministerial” hiring dispute. Perez approved the brief that all nine justices ruled took a stance hostile to our “first freedom.”
Finally, there is a little matter of upholding senatorial prerogatives. Perez, as noted, has been nominated to head the Department of Labor. An outstanding dispute between the Senate and president involves an independent agency that also deals with labor issues, namely the National Labor Relations Board. To date, Republicans in the Senate have not done anything significant to fight back against Obama’s flagrant abuse of the “recess appointment” power in wrongfully placing new members on the NLRB. Sure, the Republicans can say, they have left that fight to the courts, which have ruled in their favor. But the administration and its appointees have continued to issue rulings even after losing the case unanimously at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.
Presidential nominees have been held up in the Senate for far less. Not only that, but Senate Democrats even held up a Cabinet-level (in status if not always officially) in the recent past, using a filibuster to kill the nomination of John Bolton to be ambassador to the United Nations.
If an administration has trampled the Senate’s constitutional prerogatives to “advise and consent” on nominations, without penalty; and if a precedent has been set for filibustering Cabinet-level nominations when serious issues are raised; and if the nominee has told falsehoods under oath to Congress on multiple occasions, flouted congressional subpoenas on others, violated public records laws with abandon, pushed extremely radical ideology in clear contravention of the letter of the law, and been so willing to trample religious liberty that a unanimous Supreme Court rebuked him -- not to mention overseen a department whose operations were harshly criticized in a scathing Inspector General’s report -- then, by gosh, there is more than ample reason for the appointment to be permanently blocked.
Politically, meanwhile, senators seem to have things figured exactly backwards. Conservative senators seem to shrink from strong stands on any subject even touching on race. But in this case, they would be so clearly on the side of angels as to put red-state Democrats on the defensive, much as they have been on the defensive on gun votes. The four million working-class whites who voted in 2008 but stayed home this year are almost assuredly disdainful of racism -- but they also are sick to death of the left-wing attempt to turn every issue into a racial one.
And, more importantly, as the Village Voice showed, it is blacks who do play by the rules who are truly victimized by Perez’ racial bean-counting. To stand against Perez is to stand with black would-be firefighters in New York, and with liberal Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and with the head of the NAACP in Dayton, Ohio, and with the black majority in Kinston, North Carolina, and with the black employees in the Civil Rights Division who were abused for doing their jobs while Perez kept their abusers on staff.
To stand against Perez is not to create a racial issue or an ethnic one, but to insist that race not be inserted into disputes where it doesn’t belong -- and to insist that somebody, like Perez, who racializes just about everything is somebody who does not belong in a Cabinet post.
He especially doesn’t belong there if he is a prevaricating, subpoena-evading, law-violating, public-safety-ignoring, religious-liberty-limiting, seriously ethically challenged nominee who uses his post to bully others into submission. He is the single worst Cabinet nominee in our adult lifetimes; if he’s not worth blocking, then the Senate is no better than a hollow shell on nominations, pathetically subservient to a presidency to which the Senate itself forfeited imperial powers.