GROWING FIELD IN CONTENTION FOR LABOR SECRETARY
Less than two weeks before Congress takes its Christmas Recess; House plans to adjourn on December 17.
Appropriations/Coronavirus Stimulus Package
On Friday, December 11, the Senate passed a one-week funding bill by voice vote to avert a government shutdown at midnight. The last-minute agreement came after a number of senators dropped efforts to tack on other provisions to the bill. This gives negotiators more time to try and finalize talks on a $1.4 trillion omnibus spending package that would give much needed pandemic aid to millions of Americans. Senators Bernie Sanders (VT) and Josh Hawley (MO) both pushed for a vote to include another round of stimulus checks.
The stopgap pushes the government funding deadline to Friday, December 18, giving negotiators little time to finalize the omnibus and a fiscal stimulus deal. Congressional leaders are trying to secure billions of dollars in pandemic aid, which they want to attach to an omnibus agreement. Congressional appropriators have signaled they are close to finalizing the $1.4 trillion funding deal, but are still negotiating $12.5 billion for a veterans health care program. Four committees have announced agreement on surprise medical billing legislation, and a bipartisan group of lawmakers is expected to release the legislative text of a two-part $908 billion coronavirus stimulus measure today.
Labor Secretary On December 1, Reuters reported that U.S. Representative Abby Finkenauer (IA), who has personal and political connections to President-elect Joe Biden, is being considered for Secretary of Labor in his administration. The field for DOL Secretary is wide and growing.
California Labor Secretary Julie Su, a longtime advocate for low-wage workers, continues to be in serious contention, but the list of contenders is currently at 9. Dozens of immigration and labor organizations, led by the National Immigration Law Center, sent a support letter to Biden’s team on December 4 voicing their support for Su. In addition, Senator Mazie Hirono (HI), one of only three Asian American senators, sent Biden a letter of endorsement last Wednesday calling Su “the best of what this country can be.”
On Tuesday, December 8, New York Times reporter Jim Tankersley claimed that Patrick Gaspard, a U.S. ambassador to South Africa, is the ‘leading candidate’ for President-elect Joe Biden’s Secretary of Labor. Other names in the ring include: Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders; Representative Andy Levin (MI); Boston Mayor Marty Walsh (although he has indicated he looks forward to working with the Biden administration “as mayor for the many years to come”); Sharon Block, Executive Director of the Labor and Worklife Program at Harvard Law School; William Spriggs, AFL-CIO Chief Economist; and Seth Harris, former Deputy Labor Secretary under Obama, who is part of the current DOL agency review team.
Click here to read the Su support letter.
House Education and Labor Committee On Tuesday, December 8, Democrats on the House Education and Labor Committee released the report “The Future of Work: How Congress Can Support Workers in the Modern Economy,” which advocates for several progressive labor issues, including passage of the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act, while more broadly aiming to preserve worker protections, improve workforce development, and protect workers’ civil rights in the digital age.
Click here to access the report.
Initial Jobless Claims
In the week ending December 5, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 853,000, an increase of 137,000 from the previous week's revised level. The previous week's level was revised up by 4,000 from 712,000 to 716,000. The 4-week moving average was 776,000, an increase of 35,500 from the previous week's revised average. The previous week's average was revised up by 1,000 from 739,500 to 740,500. The advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate was 3.9 percent for the week ending November 28, an increase of 0.1 percentage point from the previous week's unrevised rate.
Click here to access the full report.
Click here to read the entire December 14 weekly legislative update.