Enzi Concerned with Delayed Nominations for Labor Agency

Questions Labor Sec. Solis and White House Chief Daley on Lack of BLS Nominee

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), Ranking Member on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, sent letters today to Department of Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, and White House Chief of Staff William Daley expressing concerns about why the President has not submitted a nomination for the commissioner of the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).  Senator Enzi noted that the current commissioner’s term expires in early January 2012, yet no nominee has been sent forward to date.  The Bureau of Labor Statistics is an independent statistical agency that provides essential economic information to support public and private decision-making, including the monthly unemployment numbers, average hourly earnings, the Consumer Price Index and labor productivity.  

“I would like to know when the Administration intends to nominate a commissioner,” said Senator Enzi.   “I have concerns with an apparent attempt to circumvent the Senate’s constitutional role of advice and consent with respect to the Bureau of Labor Statistics commissioner.”

Enzi noted the Department appears to be circumventing a nomination by making the career deputy position indistinguishable from that of the senate-confirmed commissioner.  For example, instead of serving as an operations officer, as has been the role for decades, the deputy is now to be charged with “exercising leadership in all matters relating to BLS,” and developing and conducting general research to support the Department.  

“Even more concerning, however, is a requirement that the deputy commissioner ‘assist the Secretary in presenting the Department’s interests and policies to Congress, other government agencies and the public” and conduct studies for “evaluating the effectiveness of Department of Labor programs.’ It is inappropriate for an employee in an independent statistical agency – much less the second in command and potential acting head of that agency – to participate directly in advocating for the Department’s overall policies and interests and/or in providing critiques of Departmental programs,” Senator Enzi said.  “Indeed, one of the four basic principles for a statistical agency is that to have credibility, an agency must be free—and must be perceived to be free—of political interference and policy advocacy.

You can read Senator Enzi’s letters here and here.

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