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Biden to Pick Ex-DNC Official as Labor Department Top Lawyer (2)

March 25, 2021, 7:56 PMUpdated: March 26, 2021, 1:33 PM

President Joe Biden will select Democratic operative and former Obama administration official Seema Nanda as the solicitor of labor, the U.S. Labor Department’s chief attorney, the White House announced Friday.

Nanda had stints as deputy solicitor and chief of staff at DOL for Obama administration Labor Secretary Tom Perez, and then worked under Perez as the Democratic National Committee’s CEO. If confirmed by the Senate, Nanda would join newly sworn-in Labor Secretary Marty Walsh atop a department charged with significant responsibilities for pandemic economic recovery.

Biden’s move to nominate Nanda, who is Indian American, comes after Sens. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) and Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) criticized the president recently over the lack of Asian American Pacific Islander representation in the administration.

Bloomberg Law reported exclusively on Thursday that Biden was planning to nominate Nanda. She didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Department Experience

The solicitor of labor, the No. 3 official at DOL, wields considerable authority throughout the department. The Office of the Solicitor spearheads litigation under numerous labor and employment laws and advises department subagencies on regulations and policies on workplace issues such as wages, safety, and discrimination.

Nanda would be the first person Biden has nominated for a DOL post to have experience at the department: Walsh is a former Boston mayor and Massachusetts legislator; and Julie Su, the nominee for deputy secretary, is head of California’s workforce agency.

Nanda’s familiarity with the department, assuming she earns the Senate’s blessing, could benefit Walsh as he seeks to make gains on virus-response priorities, such as helping states process jobless benefits and protecting workers from on-the-job Covid-19 infection.

Nanda arrived at DOL in 2013 to serve as Perez’s deputy chief of staff, before transitioning to deputy solicitor for a few months in 2016. She then finished out the Obama administration as the department’s chief of staff.

Previously, she had earned litigation experience as a supervising attorney at the National Labor Relations Board and as a deputy special counsel at the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. She holds a law degree from Boston College and an undergraduate degree from Brown University.

After her DOL years, Nanda rejoined Perez in mid-2018, when he was DNC chairman, serving as his top executive amid a fundraising effort that helped the Democratic Party retake control of the House in the November 2018 midterm elections.

(Updated with White House announcement, in the 1st paragraph, and to reflect Bloomberg Law's earlier reporting in the 4th paragraph. The story was originally published March 25.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Ben Penn in Washington at bpenn@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: John Lauinger at jlauinger@bloomberglaw.com; Andrew Harris at aharris@bloomberglaw.com