Senate poised to confirm Acosta as Trump's man at labor

Capitol Hill in Washington

R. Alexander Acosta was confirmed on Thursday by the U.S. Senate to head the Labor Department. Bill Nelson of Florida, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Jon Tester of Montana and Catherine Cortez-Masto of Nevada - voted in favor of his confirmation.

The vote was 60-38, with eight Democrats breaking ranks to approve him.

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The U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee had approved Acosta's nomination by a 12-11 party line vote in late March.

Acosta, on the other hand, has been confirmed by the Senate in the past to become the USA attorney in Florida, lead the Justice Department's civil rights division, and to his seat on the NLRB. Acosta refused to answer the policy questions until hes confirmed, and he vowed to be an independent and fair voice for workers.

Acosta's "office also was involved in the controversial prosecution of billionaire Jeffrey Epstein, deciding in 2008 to let state prosecutors handled charges that Epstein engaged in sex with dozens of underage girls in what victims in a court document called 'a sweetheart plea deal'".

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Yet she ceded little ground with Acosta as well. From 2009 until his confirmation, Acosta served as the Dean for the Florida International University College of Law.

Trump nominated Acosta after his previous pick for the post, the businessman and former fast-food executive Andrew Puzder, withdrew under a cloud of controversy. The fast food CEO acknowledged having hired a housekeeper not authorized to work in the US and belatedly paying the related taxes.

Several labor unions wound up stridently opposing Puzder's nomination. Puzder led the Hardee's and Carl's Jr. burger chains and was a sharp critic of a $15 minimum wage and more generous overtime rules.

While Democrats are relieved to be debating any Labor nominee other than Puzder, many have still expressed concerns with Acosta's record.

One rule would double the amount of income someone can earn before they're no longer eligible for overtime pay. They touted his selection as an opportunity for the Trump administration to improve job growth by lifting regulations at the Labor Department.

When Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., introduced Acosta at his confirmation hearing, he said Acosta was a "brilliant legal mind, someone with deep knowledge of labor issues and a proven leader".