If there was any clue that the Democrats wanted one last opportunity to pump their last hours of super majority muscle, it happened on Thursday, immediately before Sen.-elect Scott Brown, a Massachusetts Republican, was finally sworn in by Vice President Joe Biden at 5 PM. While the GOP grew antsier over when Mr. Brown would be seated in the Senate, Democrats managed to squeeze in one last vote for labor nominee Patricia Smith just hours before Mr. Brown became an official U.S. senator. Senate Democrats confirmed Ms. Smith to the Solicitor of Labor on a party-line vote 60 to 37.
Ms. Smith’s May 2009 testimony to the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee caused GOP Sen. Mike Enzi from Wyoming to ultimately request documents from New York State under its Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) concerning the Wage and Hour Watch Program that Ms. Smith was asked about.
The Wage Watch program amounted to using unions to find out about any illegal employment practices. The Weekly Standard’s Daniel Halpern points out a serious discrepancy in Ms. Smith’s responses regarding Wage and Watch:
In response to questions about how the program was developed, Ms. Smith stated that it was developed internally on two occasions:
- [May 7 Hearing] 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.
- [Enzi QFR May 13 response] My staff had done considerable work researching Neighborhood Watch and developing the concept of this initiative and felt it was time to present the Department’s ideas for what is now known as Wage and Hour Watch, to gauge the possible interest of these two groups with whom we had worked and to get feedback.
However, emails show that two of the pilot groups, the Retail Warehouse and Department Store Union (RWDSU) along with Make the Road New York, a public interest entity financed in part by unions, were heavily involved in developing all aspects of the program. Attached is one example of email where these outside groups provided support for and pushed the State to implement this program. Ms. Smith did not even discuss the program with the targeted small business community or its representatives until March. This was after five trade associations representing small and medium business sent a letter to her and requested a meeting over a month after the program was launched.
Mr. Enzi had repeatedly requested the White House to withdraw the Smith nomination to no avail, and Ms. Smith, New York State’s former Labor chief, became Labor’s Solicitor General. Craig Becker, an Obama nominee for National Labor Relations Board, may not likely slide through as easily with a new Senate that includes Mr. Brown. Mr. Becker is said to have past writings showing he believes that NLRB can make huge changes to the National Labor Relations Act sans congressional legislation. This would include issues surrounding denying union members a secret ballot. Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, has already filed for cloture on debate for Mr. Becker’s confirmation, which is scheduled this Monday.