Democrats Push For Vote On Solis As Labor Chief

Democratic Rep. Hilda Solis of California seemed headed for confirmation as labor secretary, but a Senate committee put off a vote when it was revealed that her husband had unresolved tax issues with his business. Republican lawmakers also say they worry about her association with a pro-union organization. Republicans want more information. Democrats say it's time to vote.

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And I'm Linda Wertheimer.

President Obama's cabinet is still not fully in place. A Senate panel planned to vote last week on the nomination for Labor secretary, California Congresswoman Hilda Solis. But then came news that her husband had some tax issues. Republicans say they want to know more. Democrats say it's time to vote. NPR's Brian Naylor reports.

BRIAN NAYLOR: Congress is usually deferential when it comes to approving a new president's cabinet choices. But the nomination process has been a little less than smooth for some of President Obama's nominees, largely because of tax problems. Thirty-four senators voted against Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner because of his tax issues. And Tom Daschle had to withdraw his nomination as Health and Human Services secretary because of his.

The latest nominee to face tax woes, Labor secretary designee Hilda Solis, isn't in that kind of trouble. But her nomination is mired in a kind of Republican slow walk. Republican Senator Richard Burr says it's a question of due diligence.

Senator RICHARD BURR (Republican, North Carolina): Short of this I think she would've breezed probably through confirmation. But when we find inaccuracies that are this specific, especially in light of everything that's come out, I think it's a reason to pause and look deeper.

NAYLOR: The Senate's Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee put off its planned vote on the nomination last week after it was revealed that Solis's husband had paid off some $6,400 in tax liens on his Los Angeles auto repair business the day before.

Republicans seem reluctant to pin her husband's tax problems on Solis, but they do have other issues with the nomination. She is a proponent of so-called card check legislation, which would make it easier for workers to join unions. The measure is strongly opposed by most Republicans and the business community. And there's the question of Solis's serving as unpaid treasurer of a group called American Rights at Work while in the House. American Rights at Work has lobbied for card check.

Republican Senator Johnny Isakson of Georgia is a realist but wants to make sure the I's are dotted and the T's crossed before the nomination moves forward.

Senator JOHNNY ISAKSON (Republican, Georgia): Quite frankly, I'm well aware whoever President Obama appoints is going to be for card check. And I think the husband's tax issue clearly was his issue, not hers. The last issue I need to get the information on is the information on her treasurership of that organization that was lobbying Congress, just to make sure there wasn't something to come back to bite us.

NAYLOR: Some Republicans contend that Solis's work for the group may have been a violation of House ethics rules. Democrats backed by numerous labor groups say Republicans have had plenty of time to vet the nomination and it's time to move on it. Senator Jack Reed of Rhode Island says Solis deserves the chance for a vote.

Senator JACK REED (Democrat, Rhode Island): I think it's getting to that point now where it'll be clear if there's no vote that there's something more here than just simply trying to review the record carefully.

NAYLOR: Maryland Democrat Barbara Mikulski says Solis has survived the potholes on her path to the nomination and that her voice is needed in the Cabinet.

Senator BARBARA MIKULSKI (Democrat, Maryland): With the economy going where it is, we need a secretary of Labor at the table to really be - make sure we're helping with our job creation.

NAYLOR: Connecticut Senator Christopher Dodd, a senior Democrat on the Senate labor panel, says he believes the outstanding matters regarding Solis have been resolved. He hopes the committee may yet vote on the nomination this week.

Brian Naylor, NPR News, Washington.

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