President Biden on Wednesday publicly announced his decision to nominate Deputy Labor Secretary Julie Su to head the department, acknowledging the pressure he has faced to pick name an Asian American Cabinet member.
Biden joked that Su was too popular not to nominate to the position, saying if he had chosen someone else he would be "run out of town."
"I think they like you," Biden said after a strong applause from conference attendees. "That's what I think. If, in fact, you were not picked to be the next secretary of labor — I would be run out of town."
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"Born in Wisconsin, she's a daughter of Chinese immigrants. [Her] mom was a union worker and her dad was a small business owner. She went to law school, served the people of California. Julie is the American dream," Biden said.
At one point, the president called to the podium all present members of his Cabinet to congratulate Su on her position. He also called to the stage Su's two daughters, who were present for the press conference.
Biden also thanked outgoing secretary Walsh for his years in the administration, saying, "Marty has several claims to fame, he is a proud son of Irish immigrants, mayor of Boston was for the last two years secretary of labor."
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Walsh, 55, will be the first member of President Biden's Cabinet to depart.
"We have never had a president who has made workers worker well-being and worker power so central to his vision of a strong nation and a strong economy," Su said of Biden during her remarks.
She later said, "When the president talks about those who've been forgotten or invisible, I know what he means because I have spent my career fighting for them to be seen. So to all workers who are toiling in the shadows, to workers who are organizing for power and respect in the workplace, know that we see you. We stand with you, and we will fight for you."
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Su faces an uphill battle for confirmation after Republicans came out against her nomination on the grounds of alleged incompetence in her prior roles.
Su is the former secretary of labor for California and was confirmed by a razor-thin margin, 50-47, by the U.S. Senate in July 2021 to serve in her current role.
The Republicans — led by Rep. Kevin Kiley, R-Calif. — accused Su of overseeing "one of the largest cases of unemployment insurance fraud" during the pandemic and of implementing one of the "most destructive labor policies in decades" during her time as California’s labor secretary.
Su argued during her 2021 confirmation hearings that the fraud was part of a criminal conspiracy that went well beyond California.
Su had previously admitted in a press conference that the state had "not had sufficient security measures in place" to prevent the fraud.
She blamed the Trump administration for the fraud and backlog of unemployment claims, saying the former president’s team had not given adequate guidance to fight the criminal schemes.