The reason why Acting Secretary of Labor Julie Su had to be threatened with a subpoena to get her to show up to testify in front of the House of Representatives Committee on Education and the Workforce Wednesday became readily apparent very quickly.
It did not go well for Su.
Or – to use Su’s definition of a one-word answer – it was a flaming zeppelin of jargon, evasion, contradictions, mistruths, with one incredibly odd verbal tic thrown in time and time again.
While committee Democrats praised Su’s personal story (Asian-American daughter of immigrants, doncha know?) and an apprenticeship program the Department of Labor operates and how wonderful it is that she has played such an important role in the roaring low unemployment Biden economy, Republicans – from the get-go – offered a different look at Su’s record.
The meeting was technically about the Department of Labor’s budget – the Biden administration has requested about a 10% increase – but much of it focused on her overall job performance in light of her pending nomination to get the secretary spot full-time.
Biden nominated Su – whom the Golden State fondly remembers as the ham-fisted enforcer of the anti-freelance work law AB-5 and as the person in charge of the EDD when it firehosed $40 billion in pandemic unemployment money to global fraudsters while utterly failing to properly handle millions of legitimate benefits claims of Californians – to take over the top spot at the departmnet (she was/is the chief deputy secretary) about three months ago.
Su has been approved – on a party line vote – by a Senate committee but her final confirmation vote by the full Senate has been on hold since then as the Biden administration scrambles to lockdown the 50 votes (Kamala would break the tie in her favor) needed for her to get the job. At this point, at least four moderate senators – Manchin (D-WV), Sinema (I-AZ), Tester (D-MT), and Kelly (D-AZ) – have all refused to publicly support Su.
In fact, Tuesday evening Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI), told the USA Today that “(W)e don’t have enough votes yet, and I don’t know the basis of the hold-up from some of my colleagues.”
The hold-up is most likely related to her omni-shambles oversight of the EDD, her undeclared war on independent or gig workers and it is a hold-up that may likely be extended after this morning’s debacle.
It started with committee chair Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC) lambasting Su for her seeming disdain of congressional oversight.
“Acting Secretary Su, you’re sitting here today only because I informed you that I would issue a subpoena to compel your attendance at this previously agreed to hearing and you reconsidered your cancellation,” Foxx said. “You cannot run from this responsibility. Congress and the American people have questions about how you’ve been running the Department.”
Foxx reminded the committee that Su was involved in invoking vaccine mandates on 84 million American workers, that her coziness with “Big Labor” actually damages the workers they are supposed to represent, and that her department is trying to shoehorn through regulatory means key aspects of the PRO Act (think of it as very similar, but bigger, federal version of AB 5) because Congress will not pass the bill (even when the Democrats held majorities in both houses.)
Throughout the hearing, Su fell back on jargon, did not answer “yes or no” questions with a “yes or no,” and repeatedly displayed a verbal tic by saying “Thank you very much for that question” to every question before launching into saying a multitude of vague words in a row in response.
(During Foxx’s questioning at the beginning of the hearing, she even told Su that she didn’t have to say “thank you” to every question – but she didn’t listen.)
After Wisconsin Rep. Glenn Grothman (R) asked Su if she stood behind a statement from a few years ago that America is a “society built on white privilege” – her response involved doing everything she could to say neither yes nor no, ending with a statement about believing in equal opportunity, but no retraction – California’s own Rep. Kevin Kiley (R-Roseville) lead the questioning as many other members gave him their “five minutes” to use.
First, Kiley asked Su if she was involved in the drafting of AB 5 – she said she was not, though when asked a few minutes later by Rep. Eric Burlison (R-MO) if she was involved she said yes, she had given technical advice, leaving the committee dumfounded (it usually takes more than 10 minutes for a politician to publicly give two diametrically opposed answers.)
Today Julie Su absurdly claimed not to remember how she voted on Prop. 22. The initiative, which spared Uber and Lyft from AB 5, passed in 2020 while Su was California Labor Secretary.
Giving false testimony to Congress should disqualify a nominee.pic.twitter.com/kYgchKFr91
— Kevin Kiley (@KevinKileyCA) June 7, 2023
Kiley then asked if Su thought AB 5 was a good law. Though she said a number of things she did not answer, nor did she answer if she supported Biden’s public pronouncement that AB 5 should be a model for the nation – see here for yourself.
As to the $40-ish billion dollar defrauding of the EDD, Su blamed systemic problems, but was literally left spluttering when Kiley asked her – more than once – if there was anything she would have done differently during the pandemic.
Su pointed to a state auditor report that poor systems and the easing of the benefit standards for much of the fraud, to which Kiley answered by pointing out the same auditor said the EDD’s response to the pandemic involved “massive missteps and inaction.”
After previously citing the unemployment rate, supplemental poverty measure, and net earnings growth as her indicators for judging the success of an economy, Su again seemed flummoxed when Kiley informed her California was dead last or second to last in the country on all three measures. Su added that other indicators should then be considered.
“Acting Labor Secretary Julie Su spent today’s hearing astonishingly distancing herself from policies she spent years championing, refused to answer even the most basic of questions, and demonstrated she is manifestly unqualified for US Labor Secretary,” Kiley said after the hearing. “Today’s hearing demonstrated in the clearest possible terms why President Biden must withdraw this controversial nominee from further consideration.”
It is not yet clear whether or not today’s badly botched – or simply truly indicative of who Julie Su actually is, evasive and bureaucratic at best, duplicitous and incompetent at worst – house appearance will damage her confirmation chances in the Senate.
Even though it should.
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