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Senate panel backs Obama labor nominee Perez

Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice Thomas Perez speaks during a news conference in Phoenix, A
Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice Thomas Perez speaks during a news conference in Phoenix, A

By Amanda Becker

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A Senate committee voted along party lines on Thursday to send President Barack Obama's controversial nominee for secretary of labor, Thomas Perez, to the full Senate for a confirmation vote.

The 12-10 vote by the Health and Labor Committee followed weeks of delay by Republicans, who say Perez is a crusading ideologue who would bend the law to advance his agenda.

The fate of the nomination in the full Senate is uncertain. While it is controlled by Democrats, Republicans have hinted they might use procedural tactics to delay or block a vote.

Republicans have also used procedural delays in committee to hold up the nomination of Obama's nominee to head the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Gina McCarthy.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said last week that Perez has shown throughout his career a "flippant and dismissive attitude about the boundaries everyone else has to follow" and accused him of being an ideologue. Republican Senator John Cornyn of Texas likewise took to the Senate floor to excoriate Perez's record.

The Obama administration and congressional Democrats have praised Perez's dedication to civil service and highlighted his role as a bipartisan consensus builder.

Perez, 51, is the assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division at the Department of Justice. Republicans have criticized Perez's record on voting rights and immigration.

They accuse Perez of making a deal in which he got St. Paul, Minnesota, officials to withdraw a Supreme Court appeal in exchange for the department not pursuing allegations the city filed false claims in a government funding application.

Perez said he handling of the cases was completely proper, but Republicans have been dissatisfied with his explanation.

(Editing by Fred Barbash and Doina Chiacu)

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