Obama's Only Latino Cabinet Nominee Moves Toward Confirmation

PHOTO: Labor Secretary nominee Thomas Perez testifies during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee April 18, 2013 on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.

President Obama's only Latino cabinet nominee, Thomas Perez, cleared a key procedural hurdle in the Senate on Wednesday, putting him on track to be confirmed as labor secretary.

The Senate voted 60-40 to cut off debate on Perez's nomination, the minimum amount of votes needed to avoid a filibuster. Six Republicans voted to advance Perez, joining all 54 senators who caucus with Democrats. Senators are expected to officially confirm Perez on Thursday.

Perez will be the only Latino to serve in Obama's cabinet. He will replace former Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, who resigned in January. The only other Latino member of Obama's cabinet, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, stepped down in April.

Nominated in March, Perez faced a tough confirmation fight in the Senate. Republicans held up his nomination over questions about his record as a civil rights official at the Justice Department.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) took to the Senate floor earlier on Wednesday, calling on his colleagues to continue to block Perez's nomination. Rubio said Perez failed to comply with an investigation by House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) into his tenure at the Justice Department.

"Labor nominee Perez has flat out simply ignored House subpoena for emails in which he conducted official business on his private email," Rubio tweeted. "Terrible 'deal' to preserve filibuster now leads to almost certain confirmation of Labor secretary who is hiding info from congress."

Perez's nomination was cleared only after senators reached a deal this week to vote on several of Obama's long-stalled executive branch nominees. Rubio lamented the razor-thin margin on the vote to cut off debate over Perez.

"If just one more Republican Senator had voted against cutting off debate, we could have stopped nomination of Obama labor nominee #surrender," he tweeted.

Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) defended Perez on the floor, saying he complied with requests for background information.

"The contentions made by the senator from Florida are just absolutely wrong," Harkin said, according to Politico.

Now, Perez is virtually assured to become a member of Obama's cabinet. But Latino advocacy groups won't be completely satisfied. The National Hispanic Leadership Agenda sent Obama a letter in January urging him to pick three Latino cabinet nominees. The president will proceed with his second term with just one.

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