A Senate committee abruptly canceled a confirmation vote for Labor Secretary-designate Hilda L. Solis Thursday amid fresh reports of tax problems involving the husband of the California congresswoman.
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said President Obama remained firmly behind the nominee, one of just three Cabinet picks yet to be confirmed by the Senate.
“She’s not a partner in her husband’s business,” Mr. Gibbs said. “We’re not going to penalize her for her husband’s business mistakes.”
Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chairman Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat, and Wyoming Sen. Michael B. Enzi, the panel’s ranking Republican, said the session was postponed “to allow members additional time to review the documentation” submitted in support of her nomination.
“There are no holds on her nomination and members of both sides of the aisle remain committed to giving her nomination the fair and thorough consideration that she deserves,” they said in a joint statement.
Spokesmen for the two senators did not indicate when a confirmation vote might be held.
USA Today first reported that Sam Sayyad, Mrs. Solis’s husband, had 15 outstanding state and county tax liens placed on his Los Angeles auto repair shop. The White House said that Mr. Sayyad and his wife were unaware of the liens and that Mr. Sayyad had paid the county $6,400 Wednesday to settle the debt.
Personal tax problems have bedeviled some of Mr. Obama’s top personnel choices.
A third of the Senate voted against the nomination of Treasury Secretary Thomas F. Geithner because of his failure to pay self-employment taxes while working for the International Monetary Fund. Both Health and Human Services Secretary-designate Thomas A. Daschle and Nancy Killefer, Mr. Obama’s choice to be the first “performance chief officer,” withdrew their names last week after admitting to past tax irregularities.
Mrs. Solis, a five-term lawmaker whose selection was hailed by organized labor, has had an unexpectedly rocky confirmation process. She upset some Republicans on the committee at her confirmation hearing last month by declining to answer questions on a number of hot-button issues, including a bill Mr. Obama had supported as a senator to make it easier for unions to organize a worksite.
The bill is a top priority of the AFL-CIO but is vehemently opposed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers nd virtually every other major business interest group.
In written follow-up questions, committee Republicans have inquired about Mrs. Solis’ volunteer work with a nonprofit group that promoted union organizing and raised the possibility she should recuse herself from dealing with the hotly disputed “card-check” union organizing bill. Mrs. Solis denied her nonprofit work qualified her as a “lobbyist” for the group.
Asked if the White House feared the Labor nomination could be in jeopardy, Mr. Gibbs replied, “I don’t believe it is at all.”