Speeches & Floor Statements

Floor Speech: Secretary of Labor Nominee Eugene Scalia

Posted on September 25, 2019

This week, the Senate will vote to confirm Eugene Scalia to serve as Secretary of Labor. 
Businesses and workers need a Secretary of Labor who will steer the department with a steady hand. 

I believe Mr. Scalia has the skills to help continue to grow our economy and to help workers gain the skills they need to succeed in today’s workplace. 

On July 18, President Trump announced he planned to nominate Mr. Scalia. 
 
That means senators have had more than two months to consider his nomination and a month to consider all of his paperwork. 
 
 
On August 27, the Committee received Mr. Scalia’s Office of Government Ethics (OGE) paperwork, including his public financial disclosure and ethics agreement. Based on these documents, the OGE determined that Mr. Scalia “is in compliance with applicable laws and regulations governing conflicts of interest.”  
 
On the same day, August 27, the Committee also received his HELP paperwork, which is extensive, additional background information.
 
Mr. Scalia also provided us with copies of all of his writings, which he was not required to do. 
 
Last week, the Senate labor committee held a three hour confirmation hearing with Mr. Scalia, and senators submitted 418 questions for the record, all of which Mr. Scalia has answered. 
 
When President Obama’s Education Secretary stepped down in his last year in office, I encouraged him to nominate John King, with whom I disagreed on many education matters. 
 
I did this because I believe it is important to have a Secretary of Education confirmed and accountable to the Senate, and because I thought it was important for the elected President of the United States to have his choice of a cabinet member promptly considered and confirmed.
 
The full Senate confirmed Mr. King about a month after President Obama said he wanted Mr. King to serve as Education Secretary. 
 
In comparison, it has been more than two months since President Trump announced Mr. Scalia would be the next Labor Secretary.

Mr. Scalia has broad experience in labor and employment law in both the public and private sectors. 
 
He is currently a partner in the Washington, D.C., office of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, where he has spent the majority of his career working on labor, employment and regulatory matters. 
 
From 2002-2003, he served as Solicitor of the U.S. Department of Labor when George W. Bush was president. 
 
As the Department’s chief lawyer, he led initiatives to protect workers, reduce unnecessary burdens, and improve enforcement of workplace safety laws.   
 
As Solicitor, he continued a case started by the Clinton Administration to ensure that a poultry factory was paying workers what they were owed. 
 
The Department ultimately announced a $10 million settlement for workers. 
 
In 1992, Mr. Scalia left the firm to serve as Special Assistant to U.S. Attorney General William Barr in the George H.W. Bush administration.   
 
Mr. Scalia has a distinguished academic background – he graduated with distinction from the University of Virginia in 1985 and from the University of Chicago Law School in 1990 cum laude, where he served as editor-in-chief of the Law Review.  
 
He has served as a guest lecturer on labor and employment law at the University of Chicago Law School and as an adjunct professor at the David A. Clarke School of Law at the University of the District of Columbia. 
 
Altogether, Mr. Scalia is well qualified to lead the Department of Labor. 

It is important for the Department of Labor to create an environment to help employers and employees succeed in today’s rapidly changing workplace. 
 
One step the Trump Administration has taken to create this kind of environment has been to help the Americans who own and run America’s more than 700,000 franchise establishments, as well as help their employees.  
 
In 2015, the Obama-era National Labor Relations Board issued a decision overturning more than 30 years of precedent creating a new "joint-employer" standard under the National Labor Relations Act.
That decision said that mere indirect or even unexercised control over employees’ working conditions could make a franchisee and franchisor joint employers – discouraging large companies from franchising at all.
 
Then, after the Board’s decision, the Obama Labor Department issued guidance broadening its interpretation of who is a joint employer under the Fair Labor Standards Act. 
 
This has led to confusion for franchise owners and their employees. 
 
One federal judge recently said that federal circuit courts have adopted a “dizzying world of multi-factor tests” for determining joint employment under the Fair Labor Standards Act. 
 
The Trump Administration has tried to eliminate this confusion. 
 
In June 2017, then-Secretary Acosta withdrew the Obama Labor Department’s joint employer guidance and began the rulemaking process to clear up this patchwork of standards. 
 
In June 2019, the comment period closed for the Department’s proposed joint employer rule, which will help restore stability to franchise owners and their employees.
 
This week, the Department took another step to help workers by increasing the overtime salary threshold to $35,568. 
 
More than one million additional employees will now be eligible to receive overtime pay under the final rule the Department released. 
 
This is a reasonable update that should not have the same troubling effects for workers, businesses, non-profits, colleges and universities as the Obama Administration rule which would have more than doubled the threshold.
 
 
The Administration has also taken steps to help self-employed Americans and small business owners buy the same kind of high quality, lower cost health insurance that employees of bigger companies enjoy. 
 
These so-called Association Health Plans must offer the same sort of consumer protections that apply to the 178 million Americans who get their health insurance on the job. 
 
35 new Association Health Plans have already been announced under the rule, including a new plan offered by the Las Vegas Metro Chamber of Commerce that covers nearly 400 small businesses ranging from gas stations to restaurants. 
 
One small business owner said she and her staff now save $600 a month in premiums, and have gone from having a $5000 deductible to having no deductible.   
 
Unfortunately, earlier this year a federal judge blocked the final rule, creating uncertainty for the small businesses and workers covered by these plans.  

The Department has provided guidance to Association Health Plans formed before the court’s ruling, and I would encourage Mr. Scalia to have the Department continue to act as a resource for existing AHPs, and to continue working with the Department of Justice in its appeal of the decision so businesses and organizations like the Las Vegas Metro Chamber of Commerce can continue to provide health insurance through its Association Health Plan. 
 
I have been glad to see the Trump Administration take these actions to help workers and businesses in a responsible way and would encourage Mr. Scalia, if confirmed, to continue to lead the Department with a steady hand.  

I have received 32 letters in support of Mr. Scalia’s nomination from small business owners, employers, industry groups, and Mr. Scalia’s colleagues and mentees, including a number of women and former career attorneys at the Department of Labor.   
 
Former Obama Administration official Cass Sunstein wrote, “His decency is part of what makes him someone who tends to go case-by-case, and to end up where the facts and the law take him…He does not have an ideological straightjacket. He takes issues on their merits.”
 
Cecilia Madan, a deaf immigrant who Mr. Scalia helped with an employment issue, wrote, “I hope you soon will allow this advocate for justice and fairness in the workforce to have an opportunity to serve the people of the United States-my adopted country-as Secretary of Labor.”
 
Thomas Susman, who was Senator Kennedy’s Counsel, wrote, “Gene is precisely the kind of person that our country needs in the Cabinet: experienced, ethical, professional, open-minded, fair, and brilliant.”
 
A former mentee of Mr. Scalia’s wrote, “I have no doubt that someone with this level of commitment to others – who gives of himself without expecting anything in return – will stand up for all workers across the country and will prioritize their interests above any others.”
Former career attorneys at the Department of Labor who worked with Mr. Scalia while he was Solicitor wrote, “As Solicitor of Labor, he analyzed complicated legal issues on a daily basis. He was always willing to listen to divergent views…He was fair, open and honest and listened attentively when we discussed legal issues with him…we believe that Gene would be an outstanding Secretary of Labor…” 
 
Former University of Chicago Law Review Editorial Board members, from Mr. Scalia’s time as Editor-in-Chief, wrote, “Our individual perspectives and views played no role in determining what we would publish or by whom, and in this regard Gene as our leader set a strong example.”
 
And the Fraternal Order of Police wrote, “President Trump has made an outstanding choice in nominating Eugene Scalia to be the next Secretary of the Department of Labor. We have every confidence that this knowledge of labor law, his commitment to the rule of law and his understanding of the limitations the law places on him and the Department will prove him to be a highly effect Secretary.

Senators have known since July 18 – more than two months ago – that President Trump wanted Mr. Scalia to serve as the next Labor Secretary. 

Mr. Scalia is well qualified to lead the Department of Labor, and I encourage my colleagues to support his confirmation.