Obama Rallies Base With Labor Pick

Latino civil rights lawyer is popular with Democratic groups.

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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.

President Obama's expected nomination of Thomas Perez as the new secretary of labor will please liberals, civil rights-advocates and Latinos—all important parts of his winning coalition in last November's election­—but it is likely to alienate conservatives and undermine his campaign of outreach to congressional adversaries.

If confirmed by the Senate, Perez, a Latino who is now the assistant attorney general for civil rights, would succeed Hilda Solis, who resigned in January.

[READ: Congressional Black Caucus Calls on Obama to Diversify Cabinet]

From his Justice Department perch, Perez has been aggressive in filing civil rights and voting rights cases. He persuaded the City of St. Paul (Minn.) to abandon a lawsuit seeking to limit fair housing claims when there was no intentional prejudice, sued local police and sheriff's departments for alleged brutality and discrimination, and challenged voter identification requirements in South Carolina and Texas.

Complicating his nomination prospects in the Senate is a new report by the Justice Department's inspector general finding that Perez's voting rights section has been plagued by intense partisan battles between conservatives and liberals.

[READ: Rumored Obama Pick for Labor Department Faces GOP Critics]

The IG report also says Perez was misleading when he said in 2010 that political appointees did not make the decision to drop prosecution of the New Black Panther Party for allegedly trying to intimidate voters in Philadelphia in November 2008. Conservatives say Perez, whose parents immigrated from the Dominican Republic, is too zealous in pursuing a liberal agenda.

Ken Walsh covers the White House and politics for U.S. News. He writes the daily blog "Ken Walsh's Washington" for usnews.com, and is the author of "The Presidency" column for the U.S. News Weekly. He can be reached at kwalsh@usnews.com, and followed on Facebook and Twitter.