Trump Labor Secretary Not Acting Very Conservative

Alex Acosta allowing Obama holdovers to keep policies in place, impose regulations… 

Trump's Labor Dept Continues Obama Threats Over Forced Unionization 1

Alexander Acosta/Photo by US Department of Labor (CC)

(Quin Hillyer, Liberty Headlines) Nobody else seems to be paying much attention, but the Powerline blog is afire with reports that the new Secretary of Labor is protecting the swamp rather than draining it.

Longtime labor law attorney Alex Acosta has a largely Republican and conservative background, having served as a clerk for now-Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito (when Alito was an appeals court judge) and then serving various significant positions in the G.W. Bush administration.

The left-wing The Nation magazine certainly thought he was conservative, writing last year that from their standpoint Acosta was “more dangerous than you think.”

But at Powerline, respected conservative lawyer Paul Mirengoff began warning way back before Acosta was confirmed that “when he was Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division… Acosta’s priority wasn’t the advancement of the administration’s policy goals. Rather, it was to stay on the good side of left-wing civil rights groups.”

(Newsmax also reported back then that “Conservatives [are] wary of Alexander Acosta’s past advocacy for immigrants.”)

Beginning Jan. 18 of this year, Mirengoff has returned repeatedly to that theme, saying that after nine months in office Acosta appears to be “keeping Barack Obama’s left-wing program in place.”

On Feb. 6, Mirengoff lamented that Acosta has “allow[ed] Obama holdovers to maintain exclusive control of the Department’s key Administrative Review Board, and thereby dictate how dozens of key statutes are interpreted. Acosta has the right, at his sole discretion, to replace every one of the ARB’s members. Congress has no say. Yet a year into the Trump administration, every member of that body is a holdover from the Obama/Tom Perez Labor Department. Excuse the mixed metaphor, but Acosta’s unwillingness to cut this low-hanging fruit makes a mockery of Trump’s promise to drain the swamp.”

The Administrative Review Board is important: It “issues final agency decisions for the Secretary of Labor in cases arising under a wide range of worker protection laws.”

And, sure enough, Mirengoff reports that “the ARB has been issuing pro-leftist decisions non-stop, according to those who practice before it. I’m told that the plaintiffs’ bar, which probably can’t believe its luck, has been openly mocking the administration over this.”

The blog post provided several examples, including one where the ARB ruled that a business could not terminate an employee who missed significant time from work because of general “anxiety.”

The U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, in a unanimous three-person decision, overturned the ARB’s mistaken, anti-business ruling.

On Feb. 7, Powerline featured another anti-Acosta post.

But this time, Mirengoff isn’t the only one complaining.

Rubio Grills Apple for Sucking Up to China for Profits 1

Marco Rubio/Photo by Michael Vadon (CC)

The blog reported that conservative U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) has now written a letter to Acosta demanding to know why the Labor Department continues to use Obama-era misinterpretations of regulations concerning home health registries.

This is significant, because Rubio had been one of Acosta’s chief boosters when Trump nominated Acosta for the job.

“I hope I’m not being unfair,” Mirengoff wrote, “but this scenario seems like vintage Acosta — withdraw Obama’s interpretation, but do nothing to prevent DOL employees from continuing to use it. In other words, try to split the baby and avoid criticism from either side.”

Still, not all conservatives seem unhappy with Acosta.

The right-leaning American Legislative Exchange Council, which is a clearinghouse of reformist conservative ideas for legislation in state legislatures, featured Acosta as a main speaker at its summer conference last July, where he spoke about “streamlining” licensing requirements in order to speed up hiring practices.

Acosta also tweeted on the subject at the time.

As few other conservatives have so openly complained about Acosta, the jury from the right appears to be still out.

But more conservatives are now likely to pay close attention now that Powerline has been so strongly on the case.