This vote was on the nomination of Patricia Smith to be solicitor of the Labor Department, the agency’s top lawyer.
Republicans had held up Smith’s nomination, believing she was too friendly with labor to police the nation’s labor laws.
Republicans, in particular Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., were concerned about Smith’s involvement in a New York state program to combat labor law violations. Enzi, who has questioned her about how she oversaw the program, also accused her of giving the Senate inaccurate statements related to her involvement in the program.
Enzi was especially concerned about whether Smith had helped complainants find violations of the law that could be used to bring actions against businesses.
As the Labor department’s solicitor, Smith would head up the office that provides legal services to the agency, including overseeing how labor laws are applied across the country. Smith’s employment history includes several jobs litigating labor law cases, including for the New York attorney general’s office. She also has worked or several legal aid groups, focused on labor law.
Smith was one of dozens of appointments held up by Republicans over various concerns. President Obama, frustrated with lack of progress, threatened to exercise his power to appoint people without requiring them to be confirmed while the Senate is recessed, known as “recess appointments.” Yielding to this threat, Republicans yielded their opposition to several people, including Smith, feeling it was preferable to have a fuller debate and vote.
By a vote of 60-37, Smith was confirmed. Every Democrat present voted for her confirmation. Every Republican present voted against her confirmation. However, the real test vote occurred earlier, when the Senate voted to shut off debate and proceed to a final vote (see vote 17). The end result is that the Senate confirmed Patricia Smith to be the Labor Department’s top lawyer.