Senate nudges Acosta step toward confirmation at Labor

The Senate on Wednesday nudged President Donald Trump's choice for secretary of labor, Alex Acosta, a step closer to confirmation.

The Florida International University law school dean would be the first Hispanic member of Trump's Cabinet. The Senate was poised to confirm Acosta by the end of the week, the 100-day mark of Trump's presidency.

The process has not been smooth for a president who says he's committed to advocating for American workers.

Trump nominated Acosta only after his original choice, Andrew Puzder, withdrew his name in February under questions about his fitness for the post. Puzder, then the CEO of a fast food empire, later acknowledged having hired — and years ago fired — a housekeeper not authorized to work in the U.S.

Republicans pointed to Acosta's three previous Senate confirmations as key qualifiers for his confirmation as Labor Secretary. Those unanimous votes — to the National Labor Relations Board, the Justice Department's civil rights division and as South Florida's federal prosecutor — meant Acosta had received some meaningful vetting, unlike Puzder.

Acosta's confirmation hearing produced concern among some Democrats after he would not take any positions on key labor issues, such as a rule that would expand the pool of workers eligible for overtime pay. Sen. Patty Murray, the senior Democrat on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, said she worried that Acosta would merely take orders from Trump while administering the agency charged with enforcing worker protections.

Acosta denied that, saying he would stand up for workers and review the department's policies, many enacted under President Barack Obama.