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Trump to Tap Scalia for Labor Secretary Post, Following Acosta Exit (1)

July 19, 2019, 1:51 AMUpdated: July 19, 2019, 2:22 AM

President Donald Trump plans to nominate business attorney Eugene Scalia to fill the recently opened Labor Secretary role, the president announced July 18.

“Gene has led a life of great success in the legal and labor field and is highly respected not only as a lawyer, but as a lawyer with great experience,” Trump said in two tweets on Thursday night.

The announcement came one day before current Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta is set to leave the DOL. Acosta July 12 announced he was resigning in response to swirling criticism over his handling of teen sex trafficking charges against Florida hedge fund manager Jeffrey Epstein as a prosecutor in Miami.

The nomination of Scalia, the son of former Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, is likely to draw sharp criticism from Democrats, labor unions, and worker advocates. He was a recess appointment for Labor Solicitor in the George W. Bush administration because of concerns that he would not be able to get the votes necessary to confirm him in the Senate. Several Democrats, who controlled the chamber at the time, opposed Scalia’s nomination.

“I don’t see anything in his record that would allow me to believe that he will perform this job in the best interests of the millions of employees he would impact,” Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) said in 2001, opposing Scalia’s nomination. Murray is the top Democrat on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, which has jurisdiction over DOL nominees.

Scalia, a partner at Gibson Dunn in Washington, D.C., has helped lead the charge against a number of Democrat-backed labor initiatives. That includes killing a Clinton administration rule to create ergonomic standards in the workplace, successfully challenging an Obama administration regulation to enhance disclosures and conflict-of-interest restrictions on retirement advisers, and suing over an Obama tip pooling rule. Scalia in 2010 defended SeaWorld against a federal workplace safety lawsuit after a whale killed a park trainer at a live show.

His nomination is likely to thrill the business community, which has been pushing the Labor Department to speed up efforts to put a more corporate friendly stamp on labor policy in the Trump administration.

To contact the reporter on this story: Chris Opfer in New York at copfer@bloomberglaw.com