Trump names Alexander Acosta as new pick for labor secretary – Washington Post

A day after the dramatic exit of one of his Cabinet nominees, President Trump on Thursday named former U.S. attorney Alexander Acosta as his next pick for labor secretary.

Acosta served as an assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s civil rights division under President George W. Bush and is a former U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Florida. He also previously served on the National Labor Relations Board and is now the dean of the law school at Florida International University.

In his announcement, Trump said Acosta, a former clerk to Supreme Court Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., has had a “tremendous career.”

If confirmed, the son of Cuban American parents will be the first Hispanic member of Trump’s Cabinet.

Trump’s announcement came on a day when senators were supposed to be grilling his first choice for the job, fast-food chief executive Andrew Puzder. The nominee withdrew his bid Wednesday amid wavering Republican support and scrutiny of his personal life, including a rancorous divorce more than 25 years ago that included domestic-violence allegations that his ex-wife later retracted.

While the executive faced staunch opposition from Democrats and labor groups who were concerned about his opposition to wage and labor regulations, it was his support of an overhaul of immigration law and the revelation that he once hired an undocumented immigrant in his home that ultimately did him in.

Acosta, who studied at Harvard University, received early support from some top Republicans. “He has an impressive work and academic background,” said Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

Unlike Puzder, Acosta would come to the role with some public service experience. Still, lawmakers and consumer groups that pushed hard against Puzder’s nomination said they would give Acosta’s record a close look.

“People across the country have sent a very clear message that they want a true champion for workers as secretary of labor, one who will work for them, not just those at the top,” Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), the ranking Democrat on the Senate committee, said in a statement.

“I look forward to carefully reviewing Mr. Acosta’s qualifications and background, and meeting with him to discuss his plans and vision for the Department,” Murray said, adding that she has “some initial concerns about his record” that she will be looking into, without specifying what those concerns were.

On Thursday, a civil rights group pointed to a controversy Acosta faced while he was at the Justice Department. An investigation from the department’s Office of Inspector General concluded that Acosta “did not sufficiently supervise” a former senior division official who favored hiring people with “conservative political or ideological affiliations” over those with more civil rights experience. “It is hard to believe that Mr. Acosta would now be nominated to lead a federal agency tasked with promoting lawful hiring practices and safe workplaces,” said Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.

Some of Acosta’s views may be at odds with Trump’s push to reduce regulations and rulemaking by agencies. In 2010, Acosta wrote an article for the Florida International University Law Review advocating that the National Labor Relations Board shift from a “pre-World War II quasi-judicial administrative agency model” to one in which it would issue rules. “Rulemaking is a better, more democratic, more stable, more transparent, and more modern path for quasi-legislative enactments,” he wrote. He said that the NLRB “should learn from other agencies and it should hire staff experienced with the specific challenges of rulemaking.”

Alexander said that the Senate committee will schedule a hearing as soon as it receives Acosta’s required paperwork.

Acosta earned his undergraduate degree from Harvard College and received a law degree from Harvard Law School. He previously worked at the law firm Kirkland & Ellis and taught at the George Mason University Law School.

Story developing. John Wagner and Steven Mufson contributed to this report.

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