The U.S. Senate on Monday confirmed Boston Mayor Marty Walsh (D) as President Joe Biden’s secretary of the Department of Labor in a 68–29 vote.
Biden’s selection of Walsh, a longtime friend of the president who has extensive labor union ties having served as head of the Boston Building Trades Council and president of Laborers Local 223, came well-received by prominent union entities, including the progressive AFL-CIO.
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka called Walsh a “great choice,” pointing to his “strong union bona fides” and asserting “he has executive experience, and a record that would make any working person very, very proud,” according to Politico.
Biden, who has characterized himself as a “union man,” said in January upon announcing Walsh’s nomination, “Marty understands like I do that the middle class built this country, and unions built the middle class.”
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) opposed Walsh’s confirmation, saying Monday on the Senate floor prior to the vote, “The Biden administration has already signaled they will ask him to implement a variety of policies that do not serve the long-term interests of American workers.”
Despite some Republican opposition, Walsh’s confirmation came as expected after his nomination advanced easily through the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions in an 18–4 vote.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) celebrated Walsh’s impending confirmation, writing on social media Monday, “His story reminds me of my own family. His parents from Ireland, my grandfather from Eastern Europe, we both have family backgrounds of immigrants who joined the labor movement in the U.S. to help their families.”
As Walsh steps into his role, he is inheriting record unemployment levels in large part because of coronavirus shutdowns. The recently passed $1.9 trillion spending bill, dubbed the “American Rescue Plan,” is intended to provide continued federal financial relief for suffering businesses and those unemployed, though the bill was packed with many non-coronavirus-related items. One Biden agenda item notably absent from the bill, however, was increasing the minimum wage, a pursuit Walsh supports that now falls under his purview.
During Biden’s decision-making process for the position, the president “stoked diversity concerns” among Democrats after selecting Walsh, a white man, to helm the Labor Department despite the former union boss’s extensive experience in the field, as Politico reported.
Walsh is expected to resign as mayor today, and City Council President Kim Janey will serve as acting mayor until the city’s next election for the position, which is set to take place in November. Janey has been floated as a contender for the mayoral race, but she has yet to announce her candidacy. She is the first female mayor and first black mayor to serve in Boston.
Write to Ashley Oliver at firstname.lastname@example.org.