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Solis Sails Through Committee

Correction Appended

The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee on Wednesday approved the nomination of Rep. Hilda Solis (D-Calif.) to serve as Labor secretary.

Solis’ nomination cleared on a voice vote, with two Senators opposing, Sens. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) and Tom Coburn (Okla.).

Republican critics on the committee, including ranking member Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), dropped their opposition to proceeding with a vote on Solis’ nomination after they were provided with information on her husband’s tax records. The HELP Committee had postponed a confirmation vote last week after it was revealed that Solis’ husband paid about $6,400 to settle tax liens against his business that had been outstanding for as long as 16 years.

Labor groups, led by the AFL-CIO, have pushed for Solis’ confirmation, which has moved through the Senate at an extremely slow pace.

The California House Democrat sat before the HELP Committee for a hearing on Jan. 8, and was met with skepticism from Republicans who were troubled by her affiliation with American Rights at Work, an advocacy group that supports legislation that would loosen labor organizing rules. While Republicans grimaced at her involvement with the group, her confirmation seemed imminent until her husband’s tax problems became public.

The HELP Committee vote came just after the full Senate voted 93-4 to confirm Deputy Defense Secretary nominee William Lynn. Lynn’s tenure as a lobbyist for defense company Raytheon briefly clouded his confirmation process, and President Barack Obama had to waive an ethics requirement banning lobbyists from serving in the administration.

The nomination of Leon Panetta as director of the Central Intelligence Agency is expected to be taken up by the full Senate Thursday, one day after the former Congressman and White House chief of staff was unanimously approved by the Intelligence Committee.

Correction: Feb. 12, 2009

The article incorrectly said Hilda Solis’ nomination was approved unanimously. Two Senators opposed the nomination.

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