Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander plans to focus on reducing workplace regulations Wednesday during the labor secretary nomination hearing.
Former President Barack Obama oversaw a massive expansion of labor regulations during his time in office. His administration hoped to strengthen worker rights, but critics counter it actually hurt those workers. Alexander Acosta could be in a position to reverse those regulations if his nomination is approved.
President Donald Trump has made workers a cornerstone of his presidency. He has also been highly critical of the last administration for impeding economic growth. His labor secretary will be critical to reversing the actions of the Obama administration since many of those regulations went through the Department of Labor (DOL).
“Senator Alexander looks forward to discussing Mr. Acosta’s views on creating an environment for American workers to succeed in a rapidly changing workplace, and the importance of rolling back the Obama-era labor regulations which have made it harder for Americans to create, find, or keep good-paying jobs,” Margaret Atkinson, Alexander’s communications director, told InsideSources.
Alexander currently serves as the chairman for the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) committee. The committee is holding the nomination hearing. The labor secretary position is one of the last cabinet positions yet to be filled, as the process has hit some setbacks.
Obama has argued his goal was to strengthen worker rights and protections. Critics contest he did little to help workers while putting unnecessary stress on employers. A coalition of free-market organizations stated in a letter to HELP earlier this year that the department imposed $55.7 billion in regulatory costs on employers during the last administration.
Acosta is an attorney who currently serves as dean of the Florida International University College of Law. He has also been an assistant attorney general and a member of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). The president nominated him Feb. 16.
Acosta is seen by some opponents as a more moderate choice for labor secretary. CKE Restaurants President Andy Puzder was originally nominated for the position but eventually dropped out amid fierce opposition and several controversies. Acosta has been praised by some union leaders who relentlessly attacked the last nominee.
Obama received mixed reviews on economic performance during his time in office. He oversaw an economic recovery throughout his entire term following the 2007 financial crisis. He ended his presidency with steady labor market growth, in addition to other favorable economic trends.
His supporters have credited him for the turnaround. His critics, however, have pointed to the unusually prolonged recovery as a sign he actually hindered economic growth. They believe the positive trends are a natural bounce back that happened despite his agenda, particularly many actions in the labor department.
The HELP committee has scheduled the nomination hearing for Wednesday at 9:00am EST.