As readers of this blog may be aware, in yesterday’s post, I called attention to the fact that there was no replacement pick lined up for the Secretary of Labor. Less than twenty-four hours after Andrew Puzder’s decision to withdraw his nomination, President Trump selected R. Alexander “Alex” Acosta to head the DOL. If confirmed, Acosta would be the first Hispanic member of the current Cabinet. (For anyone wondering, Alex Acosta is not related to CNN reporter and frequent Trump target Jim Acosta.) The nomination will now head to the Senate, where future committee hearings are expected.
Acosta was then-Judge Samuel Alito’s law clerk on the Third Circuit Court of Appeals from 1994-95 and worked during the George W. Bush Administration as a member of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) from 2002 to 2003. Following his NLRB tenure, Acosta served as Assistant Attorney General for the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division until 2005. He then was nominated and served as U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida from 2005 to 2009, a role in which he prosecuted longtime lobbyist Jack Abramoff among many others. He has served as the law dean at Florida International University since July 1, 2009.
In addition to the fact that he is a three-time veteran of the congressional confirmation process, a number of Acosta’s former colleagues speak highly of him. Democratic NLRB member Wilma Liebman said, “Even though we often came out differently on policy conclusions or the outcome of a case, he was a good colleague and he was always willing to talk and bounce around ideas. I would say he’s very smart and he’s an independent thinker.”
Acosta has been far less vocal than Puzder was about other hot-button topics such as immigration, leading initial perceptions of the pick to be more middle-of-the-road. Of encouragement to the right, Acosta has been an active proponent of religious liberty. Most notably, Acosta served as the policy director of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, whose stated mission is to apply the “Judeo-Christian moral tradition to critical issues of public policy.”
Though hearing dates are not yet scheduled, Republicans are expected to push for an expedited timeframe given the numerous important issues facing the Labor Department.