Reid Breaks Pledge Not to Hold Important Votes Prior to Scott Brown Certification
By Robert Romano
January 29th, 2010, Fairfax, VA—Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, breaking a pledge not to hold important votes prior to Senator-elect Scott Brown's seating, is now set to push through another highly controversial Obama nominee.
M. Patricia Smith, Barack Obama's nominee for Solicitor of Labor, is scheduled for a cloture vote Monday, February 1st, at 5:30PM, according to the Senate Executive Calendar.
However, new emails have emerged from a freedom of information request by Americans for Limited Government (ALG), showing more contradictions between Smith's testimony and her communications within the New York State Department of Labor, casting doubt on whether she would be confirmed.
According to an ALG analysis of the emails and Smith's testimony, "The email traffic found in the attachment shows clearly that Department officials were in touch with outside groups from the beginning of the program. Not only did Department officials contact outside groups at the outset but these groups provided input, they even provided suggested edits to the Department. Further, Patricia Smith was in the loop on the discussions and development of the program."
In testifying to Congress, when asked by Senator Richard Burr if she "reached out to individuals and groups to craft the specifics," Smith said, "Actually, no, Senator, we did not. This was an internally crafted group. It was only after we sat down and crafted it ourselves that we reached out to groups to see if they would be interested."
The Wage Watch Initiative was not launched until January, 2009. Said Don Todd, Director of Research for ALG, "The emails go back as far as April, 2008. She misled the Senate, no question."
Yesterday, Reid scheduled a cloture vote on Smith, as reported by the American Spectator. But according to top Capitol Hill sources familiar with the situation, it highly unlikely that Senator Brown will be sworn in before the vote.
"Simply put, Reid's promise to hold off on important votes until Brown is sworn in is a lie," said Todd, also noting key votes yesterday confirming Ben Bernanke to a second term at the Federal Reserve and raising the national debt ceiling to $14.294 trillion.
"Reid ramming Smith through without seating Brown is particularly troublesome in view of the fact that Ms. Smith misled Congress in sworn testimony," Todd added.
Todd's charge that Smith "misled Congress" stems from a hearing concerning the nominee's participation at the New York State Department of Labor enforcement initiative called, "wage watch," which deputizes private entities, such as ACORN, to do enforcement work through "formal partnerships" with the state.
Groups participating in this initiative are given a specific geographic zone to patrol, are provided with training and literature, and are assigned a designated contact person to which they provide "referrals" when they find what they decide are violations of wage and hour laws.
The majority of groups participating in the initiative are either labor unions or labor union-affiliates. When the initiative was launched in January 2009, a coalition of trade associations representing thousands of New York businesses protested, writing to Smith that "To give quasi-enforcement capabilities to certain, seemingly hand-selected constituencies sets a troubling precedent that could spread among the spectrum of state agencies."
The letter continues, "We wonder how such an effort can create an atmosphere of anything other than vigilantism where every honest employer will have a legitimate concern for the preservation of his or her rights as a taxpaying business owner in the state of New York. The image painted by the Department in its January 26 release is of a posse of activists, duly deputized by the weighty imprimatur of the Department, demanding access to any employer in the state whom they have chosen either at random, by will, or by prejudice."
However, that is not how Smith described the program to Congress. According to the Washington Times, "Smith told senators vetting her appointment to be the Labor Department's solicitor that her 'wage watch' pilot program in New York was created over the last year to 'engage groups to help us with education' and not to let the private groups conduct labor investigations.
"But internal memos obtained by Republican aides on the Senate Health Education Labor and Pensions Committee show Ms. Smith's state labor agency in New York actually referred to the union and group participants as 'enforcers,' The Washington Times has learned."
Senator Michael B. Enzi (R-WY) said Smith may have misled Congress about the true nature of the program. As reported by the Times, Enzi wrote in a letter, "If it was her intention to mislead the Senate, then I must oppose her nomination. If she unintentionally gave inaccurate statements to the Senate, then I question her ability to manage a large operation, since she does not have a clear understanding of what is taking place in her own department in New York."
"There have been definite misstatements of fact by Ms. Smith about 'wage watch.' There is no question," said Americans for Limited Government President Bill Wilson, citing the new emails. "She claimed that the unions were not reached out to craft specifics for 'wage watch,' but they were."
With the senatorial hold put on Smith by Enzi, it would require a 60 vote cloture motion to have it lifted. According to ALG's Todd, if Brown were seated, Smith would face "a near-certain filibuster. She lied to Congress, and the only way she could get confirmed now is on a party-line vote."
Smith was nominated to be Solicitor of Labor in March, 2009, the third highest official and the person with the final word on all legal advice in the Department.
ALG Nominee Alert: M. Patricia Smith and Lorelei Boylan, May 2009.
Robert Romano is the Washington News Alert Bureau Chief.