Senate panel expected to approve labor nominee
WASHINGTON — Hilda Solis edged closer Wednesday to winning confirmation as the nation's next labor secretary, after more than a month of delays over questions about unpaid taxes and her work for a pro-union group.
The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee was expected to clear her nomination in a late afternoon vote, sending it to the full Senate for a final vote likely this week.
An earlier committee vote scheduled last week was abruptly postponed after news that her husband paid about $6,400 to settle outstanding tax liens against his auto repair business.
White House officials said the California congresswoman and her husband were not aware of the liens until a newspaper reported them and that Solis was not involved in the business. But committee leaders said they wanted more time to review key documents.
Anthony Coley, a spokesman for the committee's chairman, Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., said the panel would meet quickly between floor votes Wednesday "to approve her nomination and send it to the Senate floor for final congressional consent."
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said President Barack Obama was not concerned about the delays and was confident the process was back on track. Gibbs said he hoped Solis would be sworn in soon.
Republicans had already stalled her confirmation for weeks after raising questions about her role as a board member and treasurer of American Rights at Work, a nonprofit group working to pass a bill to make it easier for workers to form unions.
The wrangling over Solis' ties to organized labor is seen as a precursor to the bitter fight to come later this year over the Employee Free Choice Act, also known as card check — a bill organized labor is pushing that would make it easier for workers to form unions. Business groups and most Republicans adamantly oppose the bill.
Wyoming Sen. Mike Enzi, the committee's top Republican, has suggested that Solis' work for the advocacy group should bar her, as labor secretary, from debate over the legislation. But Solis said her positions did not involve lobbying and asserted that she would play a role in supporting the bill.
The latest delay in confirming Solis prompted unions, women's and Hispanic groups to flood lawmakers' offices with calls and letters urging them to confirm Solis.