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Labor nominee Thomas Perez pledges open mind

Labor nominee Thomas Perez told a Senate panel

Labor nominee Thomas Perez told a Senate panel on Thursday that his focus will be “jobs, jobs and jobs.” (April 18, 2013) Credit: EPA

Labor secretary nominee Thomas Perez sought to assure senators Thursday that he would approach the job with an open mind and a willingness to work with business and labor groups alike to create new jobs.

"You will always have a person who has an open and balanced approach," Perez told the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee of his plan for leading the Labor Department.

The comments at his confirmation hearing were aimed at diffusing Republican claims that Perez's views are outside the mainstream and that his decisions as the government's top civil rights enforcer were often guided by political ideology.

A report by top GOP lawmakers this week accused Perez of misusing his power to persuade the city of St. Paul, Minn., to withdraw a housing discrimination case before it could be heard by the Supreme Court. In exchange, the Justice Department agreed not to intervene in two whistle-blower cases against St. Paul that could have won up to $200 million for taxpayers.

Perez told the committee he wanted St. Paul to drop its case because he feared the Supreme Court might strike down the government's use of statistics to prove lending discrimination cases.

Perez said he is proud of his accomplishments at the Justice Department. He said his top priorities would be "jobs, jobs and jobs," along with getting Congress to reauthorize the Workforce Investment Act, which funds job training programs.

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