Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Thursday he won't start to pick any big fights with Republicans because he's afraid of upsetting the momentum to pass an immigration bill — and that includes delaying President Obama's Labor Department nominee.
Thomas Perez, Mr. Obama's nominee, faces fierce opposition from Senate Republicans, and Mr. Reid signaled he won't force a contentious vote on Mr. Perez right now because it could upset the bipartisanship that's emerged on the immigration bill.
"The question is, when am I going to do Perez? I am not going to do anything — we're going to finish the farm bill, we may be able to do a little energy bill — but I am not going to do anything to interfere with the immigration bill," Mr. Reid told reporters.
Hispanic groups desperately want both Mr. Perez's nomination and the immigration bill, and several Democratic lawmakers have warned Republicans that they risk hurting their standing with Latino voters if they oppose him.
Mr. Perez cleared a Senate committee last week on a 12-10 party-line vote, signaling he could be ripe for a filibuster on the Senate floor.
Republicans mounted one such filibuster earlier this year against former Sen. Chuck Hagel, Mr. Obama's nominee to head the Defense Department, but ended the filibuster and eventually confirmed Mr. Hagel.
The Perez battle comes as Mr. Reid accuses Republicans of seeking to block many of the president's nominees. He compared Mr. Obama to a baseball manager who was told he can't have all of his players take the field.
"They're doing everything in their power to deny the president his team and thus undermine the Obama presidency," Mr. Reid said.
But Republicans said Democrats are trying to rush judicial nominees through the process, and said they've confirmed each of Mr. Obama's Cabinet nominees in less time than it took former President George W. Bush to get his second-term team in place.
On Thursday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, said it sounded to him like Mr. Reid was laying the groundwork to change Senate filibuster rules, which would prevent the minority from blocking nominees they don't like.
Mr. McConnell warned that that move could derail the push for immigration.
The immigration bill emerged from the Senate Judiciary Committee on a 13-5 vote earlier this week, and Mr. Reid said he will bring it to the full Senate floor in June, after lawmakers return from a one-week Memorial Day vacation.
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