Smith Confirmed as Solicitor of Labor

The nomination of M. Patricia Smith as solicitor of Labor, pending since March 2009, passed 60-37 today in the U.S. Senate.

The U.S. Senate voted 60-37 Thursday afternoon to confirm M. Patricia Smith as the new solicitor of Labor, meaning she is now the chief legal advocate for the Labor Department. President Obama announced on March 19, 2009, that Smith was his choice for solicitor. Smith has been commissioner of the New York State Department of Labor (NYSDOL).

The nomination was in jeopardy because the senior Republican member of the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, Sen. Mike Enzi of Wyoming, called her unfit for the post and released a report criticizing Smith over Wage and House Watch, an NYSDOL program that targeted employers who did not obey wage and hour laws. The program was actually a union organizing campaign, Enzi's report charged.

But Sen. Tom Harkin, the Iowa Democrat who chairs the committee, said New York employers supported the nominee because companies obeying wage laws regarded "bad actors" as having an unfair advantage, and they saw Wage and Hour Watch as beneficial.

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