Members of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee voted 11-10 on Wednesday to advance the nomination of Julie Su as to head the Labor Department, succeeding former Secretary Marty Walsh.

All Democrats on the committee voted in favor of Su’s nomination, but she did not receive support from any Republicans. The nomination now moves on for consideration by the full Senate. It remains unclear whether the nomination has all of the Democratic votes necessary for final approval.

The narrow Democratic majority in the Senate has proven to be a challenge for other Biden nominees, such as Phil Washington’s nomination to lead the Federal Aviation Administration, and Gigi Sohn’s nomination to the Federal Communications Commission.

The White House has called Su a “tested and experienced leader.” She currently serves as the Deputy Secretary of Labor, a position she has held since her July 2021 Senate confirmation. Before that, Su was Labor Secretary for the State of California.

“Julie has led the largest state labor department in the nation, cracked down on wage theft, fought to protect trafficked workers, increased the minimum wage, created good-paying, high-quality jobs, and established and enforced workplace safety standards,” the White House stated.

“Working families have been struggling for the last many decades while we have massive income and wealth inequality. The working families of this country, in the Labor Department, are entitled to have a secretary who is going to stand up and fight for them,” committee Chairman Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., said before the vote on Wednesday.

He applauded Su for her support for increasing the Federal minimum wage, implementing paid family and medical leave, labor unions, and more.

However, ranking member Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., who is opposed to Su’s nomination, criticized her “decades-long record of partisan activism, promoting policies that undermine workers to the benefit of politically-connected labor unions.”

Some House members – who don’t get to vote on the nomination – also have voiced their opposition to Su’s nomination.

Rep. Kevin Kiley, R-Calif., along with other lawmakers sent a letter to President Biden in April urging against her nomination. They said that as Secretary of California’s Labor and Workforce Development Agency, Su failed “to prevent fraud in the state’s unemployment insurance system, resulting in billions of misspent taxpayer dollars, and promoting radical policies … [that] restricts Americans’ right to work as independent contractors and weakens supply chains.”

During her 2021 confirmation hearing, Su faced similar opposition from Republican lawmakers but argued that the fraud was part of a criminal conspiracy that went well beyond California.

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Lisbeth Perez
Lisbeth Perez
Lisbeth Perez is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.