As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Now Husband's Tax Issues Are Fair Game

Hilda Solis's confirmation in the Senate HELP Committee was abruptly cancelled today after a report surfaced about her husband paying $6,400 to remove a tax lien on his business.

The report, by USA Today, came just before the Senate's Health Education Labor and Pensions Committee was slated to meet to consider Solis's nomination, which had been delayed by questions over her role on the board of the pro-labor organization American Rights at Work. A source said that committee members did not learn about the tax issue until today.

"Today's executive session was postponed to allow members additional time to review the documentation submitted in support of Representative Solis's nomination to serve in the important position of Labor Secretary," read a joint statement issued by Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.), the panel's chairman, and Mike Enzi (Wyoming), the committee's ranking Republican. "There are no holds on her nomination and members on both sides of the aisle remain committed to giving her nomination the fair and thorough consideration that she deserves. We will continue to work together to move this nomination forward as soon as possible."

No new date has been set for the hearing. The disclosure about Solis's husband comes after tax problems caused trouble for three of Obama's top appointees, leading two of them -- HHS-nominee Tom Daschle and Nancy Killefer, who was to be chief performance officer -- to withdraw.

Senate Republicans have been slow-walking this nomination for weeks, and this revelation gave them another reason to do so. To be clear, we're talking about her husband's business. Given that she's in Congress and is in Washington most of the time, I doubt very highly that she has anything to do with it. In addition, by paying the taxes, Solis and her entire family are adhering to Obama's ethical standards, not subverting them.

So this is the latest in a months-long obstructionism. The LA Times reported today that some GOP members were trying to put a gag order on Solis:

Underscoring the bitter debate over a proposal to make it easier for workers to form unions, Republican senators are suggesting that President Obama's pick for Labor secretary must recuse herself from lobbying for the bill's passage.

In a written exchange with Solis, Republican senators indicated they are wary of her ties to a tax-exempt group dedicated to helping workers unionize [...]

Solis' Cabinet nomination is in the crossfire. She was a co-sponsor of the bill in 2007 and has served for the last four years on the board of American Rights at Work. Solis receives no salary as a board member or treasurer [...]

In their questionnaire, the senators noted that American Rights at Work has lobbied for passage of the bill. They asked Solis whether she would seek a waiver from the Obama administration or avoid any role in passing the legislation.

Solis replied that she does not need a waiver and has no intention of stepping back. She said she was only a member of Congress exercising her powers.

"I am not a registered lobbyist, nor do I in any way meet the statutory requirements for registration as a lobbyist," she wrote.

The American Rights at Work thing is a complete red herring. She was a representative figure for those who supported Employee Free Choice in Congress. She is not a lobbyist. She supported a bill. And so denying her free-speech rights seems ridiculous to the extreme.

I don't know if a family member's tax issue is enough to sink this nomination (like the last Labor Secretary's spouse, one Mitch McConnell, has no ethical issues to speak of), but I for one think Solis should be confirmed. And as for the Employee Free Choice Act, the battle for a fair workplace goes on. Thousands of people are marching in the streets of Los Angeles today in support of free choice.

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