US watchdog reviewing Julie Su’s status as acting labor secretary

By Josephine Walker

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -A U.S. government watchdog is reviewing how long Democratic President Joe Biden’s pick for labor secretary, Julie Su, can serve as the department’s acting secretary without Senate confirmation, a spokesperson said on Monday, following an inquiry by a Republican lawmaker.

The White House last month decided to keep Su on in an acting basis indefinitely in the face of unlikely confirmation as secretary in the narrowly divided Senate, Reuters reported at the time, citing three sources with knowledge of the matter.

A spokesperson for the U.S. Government Accountability Office said on Monday that it “accepted a Congressional request for the legal opinion and (is) working on it.” The spokesperson did not provide details.

Republican Representative Virginia Foxx, chair of the House of Representatives’ Committee on Education and the Workforce, in a July 6 letter asked the GAO how long Su can lead the agency in a temporary capacity.

The Department of Labor succession policy permits Su to serve indefinitely due to her previous confirmation as deputy secretary. However, Republicans on the committee believe she should be subject to the Federal Vacancies Reform Act, which dictates policy for most federal vacancies.

Biden’s Republican predecessor, Donald Trump, kept numerous Cabinet-level officials in their jobs in an acting capacity, without Senate confirmation, for extended periods, saying at one point that he preferred the arrangement as it gave him “more flexibility.”

(Reporting by Josephine Walker and Rami Ayyub in Washington, Urvi Dugar in Bengaluru; Editing by Franklin Paul and Leslie Adler)