Trump Chooses R. Alexander Acosta As New Labor Nominee

6 hours ago
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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

President Trump had so many things to say at his news conference today that you might have missed this. The president introduced his new pick to run the Labor Department. His name is Alexander Acosta. He is a law school dean, former federal prosecutor, and he also served in the Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division. If he is confirmed, he will be the first Hispanic member of President Trump's Cabinet. NPR's Yuki Noguchi reports.

YUKI NOGUCHI, BYLINE: In announcing his new pick, the president touted the fact that Acosta is no stranger to Washington.

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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: He's a member and has been a member of the National Labor Relations board and has been through a Senate confirmation three times - confirmed, did very, very well.

NOGUCHI: Confirmation proved an insurmountable roadblock for the previous nominee, fast food executive Andrew Puzder, who withdrew after a number of Republican senators said they would not vote for him. The loss appeared to put the president on the defensive.

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TRUMP: This administration is running like a fine-tuned machine despite the fact that I can't get my Cabinet approved.

NOGUCHI: Acosta, a Cuban-American, has a more traditional pedigree for labor secretary having served as an assistant attorney general under President George W. Bush. He also clerked for Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito and worked in a private law firm. Most recently, he has been dean of the Florida International University Law School. As a U.S. attorney, he successfully prosecuted Colombian drug cartels, lobbyist Jack Abramoff and terrorist suspect Jose Padilla. He is also the chairman of U.S. Century Bank, a Hispanic community bank.

Now, those vetting his nomination will review more than 125 decisions Acosta authored while serving on the Labor Relations Board. Dennis Kelleher is CEO of consumer advocacy group better markets.

DENNIS KELLEHER: It's encouraging that the president picked a well-known, careful, respected lawyer. Lawyers tend to respect the facts and consider things and issues on their merits. They tend not to be radical ideologues most of the time.

NOGUCHI: If confirmed, Acosta would take over as the Labor Department considers some key issues, including the pending implementation of Dodd-Frank regulation known as the Fiduciary Rule. The rule, originally set to take effect in April, requires financial advisers to offer investment advice in their client's best interest. Earlier this month, Trump issued an executive memo instructing the department to re-evaluate the rule. And since then, the department has proposed delaying its implementation. Yuki Noguchi, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.