Senate confirms Acosta as Trump's man at labor

Bruno Cirelli
Aprile 30, 2017

The Senate confirmed Alexander Acosta as Secretary of Labor, leaving the newly minted cabinet member to oversee the fate of the fiduciary rule. The Cuban American from Miami will be the only Latino in Trump's Cabinet. Acosta's confirmation will give Trump his first full cabinet since he was sworn into office on January 20. One such question is whether to expand the pool of American workers eligible for overtime pay. The rule, which extended overtime pay to more than 4 million salaried workers, was blocked by a federal judge in November.

Perhaps the most significant part of Acosta's confirmation is what it ends. He said a steep increase could create "stress" and lead to higher costs for businesses.

Acosta had previously been confirmed by the Senate three times for other positions in the Justice and Labor departments. Together, the new transition exemptions will do a lot in terms of easing some of the compliance burden associated with meeting the fiduciary rule requirements-but this is not viewed as a long-term solution by the industry, given these new exemptions only apply during the transition phase during which the rule is to be implemented in stages over several years.

Trump's Labor Department delayed the so-called fiduciary rule, ordering financial advisers to act in the best interest of clients who are saving for retirement, until June.

Acosta may order a longer delay of the rule or seek to revise it. Advocates for the rule have threatened litigation against any repeal.

Acosta has been seen as a less controversial choice than Puzder, who was attacked amid unsavory business practices and spousal abuse accusations against him.

The Senate voted a 60-38 to confirm his nomination. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), chairman of the committee, said in a statement. The president originally nominated former fast food executive Andrew Puzder, but Puzder withdrew himself from consideration back in February.

Workers groups have been mixed in their reception of Acosta.

"I think they'll come up with another way to comply that doesn't necessarily involve a private right of action where you could be sued by investors", Szapiro said.

And yet Acosta made clear he intends to carry out Trump's agenda as it relates to labor issues, saying he would honor the White House's order to review all regulations now on the books for potential repeal.

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