The Senate confirmed Eugene Scalia, a corporate litigator and son of the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, as labor secretary Thursday afternoon.
The 53-44 vote followed party lines.
Scalia’s service as labor secretary will be his second tour in the Department. He previously served as DOL solicitor, the agency’s top legal officer, under former President George W. Bush. After he leaving government service he joined Gibson Dunn & Crutcher LLP, where he developed a practice representing large corporations including Walmart and Ford in labor disputes.
Democrats made much of that legal work, saying a corporate lawyer is ill-suited to lead a department tasked with protecting workers. Organized labor also opposed Scalia’s confirmation — AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka called Scalia’s nomination a “betrayal.”
“Making the Labor Department — whose mission is to defend the rights of workers and enforce the law — a satellite office of a corporate right-wing law firm flies in the face of working people’s clearly expressed desires,” Trumka said. “We will not forget this betrayal by the Trump administration, and we will never stop fighting to ensure all working people have the safety protections on the job they deserve.”
For his part, Scalia rejected those criticisms, telling the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions that he’s helped clients respond to workplace misconduct or abuses of employment laws.
“I’ve advised clients to fire or take other serious action against executives and other managers who, in my judgment, had engaged in harassment or other misconduct,” Scalia said at his confirmation hearing.
President Donald Trump said Scalia “has led a life of great success in the legal and labor field and is highly respected” when announcing his nomination in July. Trump has maintained ties with the Scalia family since taking office. He posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, to the late justice in November 2018. Members of the Scalia family were also on hand when the president announced Justice Neil Gorsuch’s nomination.
Scalia arrives at the Department of Labor (DOL) as it unveils a new rule that extends overtime eligibility to 1.3 million workers, a smaller pool of beneficiaries as compared to an earlier Obama-era initiative.
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