Republican senators have a modest proposal for Hilda Solis: that if she’s confirmed as Labor Secretary, she recuse herself from any advocacy for the Employee Free Choice Act.

That’s quite the suggestion. Rather like asking Robert Gates not to advocate for the armed forces, or Judd Gregg not to champion American business, or President Obama’s environmental picks not to support stricter fuel-efficiency standards. But then, Republicans’ opposition to unions is close to clinically pathological.

Solis’s support for EFCA isn’t exactly a secret. She co-sponsored the bill when it passed the House in 2007. Nor is she deviating from administration policy in backing it, since Obama pledged to support the bill during his presidential campaign.

The basis of the GOP senators’ argument that Solis can’t advocate for EFCA is the fact that she is the unpaid treasurer of American Rights at Work, a worker-advocacy group that supports EFCA, and as such, she should be barred from any involvement in the EFCA fight because she was a lobbyist. But this argument stretches the definition of lobbyist beyond all elasticity. Solis was serving in a volunteer capacity for a group that was backing legislation that she co-sponsored as a member of Congress. If that constitutes lobbying, then K Street would not even exist, since lobbying jobs wouldn’t pay. Clearly, this is purely an attempt to launch a pre-emptive strike against EFCA.

Solis’ confirmation vote by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee was further held up yesterday by a USA Today report that her husband paid $6,400 to settle outstanding tax liens against his business, which is an East Los Angeles auto repair shop. There’s no evidence that Solis had anything to do with her husband’s business taxes. Not to mention that in an administration filled with Ivy League alums and Robert Rubin protégés, and that’s correspondingly light on officials who have any contact with blue-collar America, the idea that the Labor Secretary is married to a guy with an auto repair shop is comforting in itself.

--Harold Meyerson

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