US Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, & Pensions

Harkin Statement on HELP Committee Approval of Surgeon General, Department of Labor, Department of Education, and Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission Nominations

Thursday, February 27, 2014

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Today, Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, issued the following statement after the HELP Committee approved five nominees. The approved nominees include: Dr. Vivek Murthy to serve as U.S. Surgeon General, Portia Wu to serve as Assistant Secretary of Labor for Employment and Training, Christopher Lu to serve as Deputy Secretary of Labor, Heather MacDougall to serve as a Member of the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission, and Massie Ritsch to serve as Assistant Secretary for Communications and Outreach for the Department of Education. All nominations will now go on to be considered by the full Senate.

“In his testimony to the Committee this month, Dr. Vivek Murthy demonstrated that he is an excellent choice to serve as the next U.S. Surgeon General. The Surgeon General is uniquely positioned to develop and implement strategies to promote health and wellness and to drive disease prevention strategies in our nation. Dr. Murthy’s extraordinary medical and public health accomplishments show that he is well-qualified to continue that mission and I am confident that Dr. Murthy will help to greatly improve the health of Americans today and long into the future.

Christopher Lu brings a unique knowledge of the inner-workings of the Administration that will help him to advance the Department of Labor’s mission as its Deputy Secretary. His knowledge of how agencies run and how they can work together to produce the best possible results will be a great asset to Mr. Lu as he oversees the day-to-day operations of the Department. I know he will make a lasting contribution as Deputy Secretary of Labor by serving the American people in the most efficient and effective way possible.

“Helping get Americans back to work is a critical priority as the recovery progresses and is at the heart of the role of Assistant Secretary for Employment and Training at the Department of Labor. From 2012 to 2013, 32 million people were served by the Department’s unemployment, employment, and job training programs, and Portia Wu has the proven expertise needed to continue and expand this work. This effort is vital to a growing economy and I know that she will do a superb job.

“The Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission plays a critical role in supporting safe workplaces for American workers. With her years of legal experience in labor and employment law, working in both the private and public sectors, Heather MacDougall willhelp further this mission as a member of the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

“Strong and effective communication with the public is essential to advancing the Department of Education’s mission to promote student achievement and success. Serving as Deputy Assistant Secretary for External Affairs and Outreach at the Department of Education since 2009 and as the Acting Assistant Secretary for Communications and Outreach from 2012 to 2013, Massie Ritsch is well-qualified to support that mission. I am confident that Mr. Ritsch will make an excellent Assistant Secretary for Communications and Outreach and play a critical role in advancing the Department’s work to strengthen and support educational opportunities across the country.”

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