Rumored Obama Pick for Labor Department Faces GOP Critics

Business groups hold off on commenting until Perez pick made official.

United States Assistant Attorney General ThomasPerez, left, who heads up the civil rights division at the Department of Justice, is joined by Deputy Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights, Roy Austin, as Perez announces a federal civil lawsuit against Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio during a news conference Thursday, May 10, 2012, in Phoenix.

United States Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez, left, announcing a federal civil lawsuit against Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio during a news conference in 2012 in Phoenix.

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Business groups are staying mum on the next potential Department of Labor pick, reported to be Thomas Perez, a Justice Department official.

Over the weekend several news organizations reported Perez, a Harvard University graduate, lawyer and former Maryland Department of Labor secretary, would be the Obama administration's choice to replace Hilda Solis, who resigned earlier this year.

[AP: Obama Poised to Pick Perez]

While several business groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, declined to comment ahead of any official announcement, labor groups were happy to heap praise on Perez.

"He would be a great nomination for Secretary of Labor," says Amaya Tune, a spokeswoman for the AFL-CIO, a group representing about 12 million union workers.

Tune says Perez, who has worked on behalf of 'fair lending' and worker misclassification issues while at the Justice Department would stand up for the middle class.

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"He has a great record of fighting for working people," she says. "Our politics have become really slanted to the super wealthy and corporations, and he has record of working for workers."

One critic of the potential pick is Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee. Grassley has been critical of what he calls a "shady deal" Perez was involved with making with the city of St. Paul, Minn.

"If Mr. Perez is nominated, he should face a lot of tough questions about this quid pro quo deal he appears to have put together—the decision to drop the False Claims Act case against St. Paul, and how he recommended the government's help in targeting the whistleblower in this case," Grassley said in a statement.

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Grassley and some of his colleagues are currently investigating the role Perez had in getting the city to drop a Supreme Court appeal concerning housing discrimination and—in exchange—declining to pursue whistleblower cases against St. Paul that could have resulted in hundreds of millions of federal dollars getting returned to the government.

"I shudder to think how whistleblowers will be treated in the Labor Department if this quid pro quo with St. Paul is any indication of Mr. Perez's approach to this important area of law," Grassley said.

Other White House picks, or rumored picks, have been met with varying levels of success. Thought to be a frontrunner for running the State Department, Susan Rice withdrew her name from consideration after Senate Republicans pounded her for comments she made on television shortly after the deadly attacks in Benghazi, Libya.

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But Chuck Hagel, now Secretary of Defense, was able to overcome GOP opposition and secure Senate confirmation.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Monday he had "no personnel announcements" to make when asked about the Perez reports during his daily press briefing.

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