When Congress gets back in session the week of April 24, some of the lawmakers’ top priorities will be to pass a 2017 budget and to confirm Alexander Acosta as Labor secretary.
Acosta, a former federal prosecutor and current dean of Florida International University’s law school, frustrated Democrats during his confirmation hearings by declining to comment on how – or even whether – he would enforce occupational safety and health regulations such as OSHA’s rule to limit crystalline silica exposure (which the agency recently announced would not be enforced until Sept. 23, 2017 - a 90-day delay from the original enforcement date).
“The president has directed each cabinet officer to review all rules,” Acosta said during the hearing. “I cannot make a commitment because the Labor Department has an order to review all rules.”
Nonetheless, Acosta has received more across-the-board support than President Donald Trump’s first pick for the position: fast food CEO Andy Puzder, who was bitterly opposed by the left and ultimately lost support from the right when reports surfaced that he’d employed an undocumented worker in his household.
Jordan Barab, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor at OSHA predicts that political appointments at the Department of Labor will follow Acosta's confirmation.
“Leading the field for Assistant Secretary for OSHA right now is Scott Mugno, vice president of safety, sustainability and vehicle maintenance at FedEx Ground,” writes Barab in his Confined Space blog. “He’s close to the Chamber of Commerce and other business organization hostile to workers rights, and discussed issues such as obesity as a workplace hazard and sunsetting some OSHA standards.”
Barab said there’s no indication yet on who will be chosen for “the extraordinarily important job” of Deputy Assistant Secretary, although an announcement is likely after Acosta’s confirmation.
“That person, who will mostly likely serve as Acting Assistant Secretary until a real Assistant Secretary is nominated and confirmed, does not need Senate confirmation.”