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St. Paul hounds nominee for Labor

| Thursday, April 18, 2013, 7:36 p.m.

WASHINGTON — Thomas Perez, nominated by President Obama to be Labor secretary, clashed with Senate Republicans on Thursday at his confirmation hearing over decisions he made as the Justice Department's top civil rights lawyer.

Republicans on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee criticized Perez's role in persuading the city of St. Paul to drop a Supreme Court case that lawmakers said would have undermined a government enforcement tool in housing discrimination cases.

Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, the panel's top Republican, said Perez engaged in “an enormous amount of wheeling and dealing” by agreeing to keep the Justice Department out of two unrelated cases against St. Paul that might have reaped as much as $200 million for the U.S. Treasury.

When Perez said the Department of Justice was acting as a guardian of civil rights in negotiating the deal, Alexander retorted: “The DOJ is a guardian of the taxpayers as well, is it not?”

Republicans focused their criticism of Perez, a child of Dominican immigrants who would be the only Hispanic in Obama's second-term Cabinet, on what they say are ideological decisions he made as head of the civil rights division. A committee vote on the confirmation will be on Thursday, Chairman Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, said when the hearing ended.

Sen. David Vitter, R-La., has vowed to block the nomination over separate questions related to the nominee's work in enforcing voter registration laws, meaning Perez probably will need at least 60 votes to overcome a filibuster. Democrats control 55 Senate seats.

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