Senate clears way for Perez confirmation as labor chief

WASHINGTON Wed Jul 17, 2013 5:50pm EDT

Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division Thomas E. Perez speaks during a news conference at the Department of Justice in Washington D.C. December 21, 2011. REUTERS/Benjamin Myers

Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division Thomas E. Perez speaks during a news conference at the Department of Justice in Washington D.C. December 21, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Benjamin Myers

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Senate moved on Wednesday toward approving Thomas Perez to serve as the Obama administration's new labor secretary, overcoming accusations from some Republicans that he is a crusading ideologue.

Six Republicans joined Democrats in a vote to reach the 60-vote threshold needed to limit debate on Perez. The chamber is expected to vote on his confirmation as early as Thursday.

The 51-year old Perez now heads the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division. Republicans have criticized his record on voting rights and immigration and have accused him of bending the laws to advance his liberal agenda.

If Perez wins confirmation, he will be the third controversial executive-branch nominee to win approval so far this week.

Republicans allowed Democrats to move ahead on a number of nominees after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid threatened to stop them from using procedural moves to block Obama's executive branch appointees.

So far this week, the Senate has approved Richard Cordray to lead the Consumer Protection Financial Bureau and confirmed Fred Hochberg to serve another term as president of the Export-Import bank.

The conservative Club for Growth, which works to unseat Republican lawmakers who have not upheld what the group considers conservative values, urged Republicans to vote against Perez.

Republicans have also accused Perez of making a deal with St Paul, Minnesota, to get the city to withdraw a Supreme Court appeal in exchange for the Justice Department not filing charges alleging St Paul had filed false claims in a government funding application.

Perez denies the allegations.

(Reporting by Rachelle Younglai; Editing by Sandra Maler and David Brunnstrom)

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