Senate Moves to Confirm Acosta as Labor Secretary

After months of struggling to confirm a Labor Secretary, President Trump can now see the light at the end of the tunnel. Yesterday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell filed for cloture on Alexander Acosta’s nomination. This means the Senate could vote to confirm Acosta as soon as Thursday.

After significant delays in confirming a Labor Secretary, Acosta will not be afforded a honeymoon period. As I have written, it crucial that the Trump administration “fill these key personnel positions at labor agencies so that they can get to work on repealing numerous roadblocks erected by the previous administration that have discouraged employers from hiring and harmed worker career prospects.”

There are many pressing policy decisions that await Acosta. Immediately upon confirmation, the Labor Secretary will have to address whether or not the Trump administration will defend former President Obama’s overtime rule in court. This should be an easy decision since the regulation harms both employers and employees. Under the new overtime rule, workers would likely lose flexible work arrangements and demotion from salaried employee to hourly worker. In addition, non-profits, universities, and state and local governments are hit hard by the costs of the rule because they operate on tight budgets and would have trouble raising prices to counteract higher labor costs caused by the rule.

Another issue that needs sorting out immediately is the Department of Labor’s fiduciary rule. On April 7, 2017, the DOL issued a rule to delay the fiduciary rule from going into effect for one month. Acosta will be tasked with the decision to withdraw the rule or allow it to be implemented.

My colleague John Berlau, an ardent opponent of the fiduciary rule, deems it “Obamacare for your IRA.” It greatly reduces the kind of investment advice savers are allowed to receive. On top of limiting access to advice and investment choices, the fiduciary rule imposes huge costs—$31.5 billion to comply with and require nearly 60,000 hours of paperwork.

While these are the top-ticket items awaiting Acosta’s call, there are a number of other less time-sensitive decisions that need his attention:

  • Rescind the DOL Administrator’s Interpretation on Joint Employment and Independent Contractors
  • Reevaluate the DOL’s ineffective and costly job training programs
  • Determine how to trim the DOL’s budget by 21 percent as requested by the White House
  • Reinstitute Form LM-30 that required union stewards to file financial disclosure forms so that members know how their dues are spent
  • Discontinue attacks on volunteer work

There is much work to do at the Department of Labor. The Obama administration’s DOL spent eight years imposing huge costs on the economy and restricting work arrangements. It is past time that a new Labor Secretary takes the reigns.