WASHINGTON President Donald Trump on Thursday
nominated former National Labor Relations Board member R.
Alexander Acosta to serve as U.S. secretary of labor, one day
after Trump’s original choice withdrew.
Acosta is dean of the Florida International University
College of Law in Miami and is Trump’s first Hispanic nominee.
Acosta has had a decades-long public service career, serving
in three presidentially appointed and Senate-confirmed
positions, and is expected to face a smooth confirmation
“Mr. Acosta’s nomination is off to a good start because he’s
already been confirmed by the Senate three times,” said Senator
Lamar Alexander, who chairs the Senate Committee on Health,
Education, Labor and Pensions that will be vetting the
Acosta was appointed to the National Labor Relations Board
(NLRB) by former Republican President George W. Bush, who also
appointed him to be assistant attorney general in the Justice
Department’s Civil Rights Division.
He was then appointed to be U.S. attorney for the Southern
District of Florida, where he went after high-profile defendants
such as Jack Abramoff and UBS, resulting in the Swiss bank
paying more than $750 million in fines for a tax-avoidance
Acosta also previously served as a law clerk to Samuel Alito
from 1994 to 1995, when the conservative Supreme Court justice
was a judge at the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
While at the NLRB, Acosta signed hundreds of opinions. Those
familiar with his work describe him as a careful and cautious
public servant whose career trajectory suggested he may someday
vie for a federal judgeship.
Because he has already gone through multiple vettings by the
U.S. Senate, it is unlikely there will be any surprises in his
background that could derail his nomination.
The choice of Acosta, a traditional Republican conservative,
is seen by some as a sign that Trump was forced to give up a
more aggressive policy on worker issues.
Trump’s first labor secretary pick, Andrew Puzder, the chief
executive officer of CKE Restaurants Inc, was outspoken in
opposition to issues such as overtime pay, minimum wage hikes
and even discussed the superiority of robots over human workers.
He removed his name from consideration on Wednesday amid
concerns he could not garner enough Senate votes to be
confirmed. “This is the humbling of Donald Trump,” said Seth Harris, a
former Acting Labor Secretary during the Obama administration,
who said Puzder would have been a “radical disruptor” but Acosta
Acosta has been a staunch defender of the civil rights of
Muslims who faced a backlash after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks
on the United States.
In a 2011 congressional hearing, Acosta applauded how the
Justice Department responded to civil rights violations, saying
they helped assure Muslim Americans that “their government would
protect their rights.”
But progressive groups were already responding negatively to
the Acosta appointment with Allied Progress alleging he had
mismanaged the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division
when he ran it. In 2008, an internal Justice Department report
faulted Acosta for failing to rein in a staffer who engaged in
improper politicized hiring. (Additional reporting by Amanda Becker and Roberta Rampton)
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