President Joe Biden made his nomination of Julie Su to lead the Labor Department official on Wednesday by holding a cheery ceremony in the East Room.
There, he put on a Boston accent to thank outgoing Labor secretary Marty Walsh — pronounced “Motty” by Biden — who accepted the position of executive director of the National Hockey League Players’ Association.
“I asked him to take me, but he wouldn’t,” Biden joked, adding that another friend had told the president he was “going to be the hockey puck.”
With Su’s nomination, which requires Senate approval, Biden has finally named an Asian-American to serve at the secretary level.
Despite the president boasting that he has the most diverse administration in history, there are no Asian-Americans running his major departments.
President Joe Biden (left) on Wednesday made his nomination of Julie Su (right) to lead the Labor Department official by holding a joyful ceremony in the East Room
Biden (right) put on a Boston accent to thank outgoing Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh (left) and joked that he wanted to join him to work at the National Hockey League
Prior to his announcement, Biden received pressure from prominent Asian American and Pacific Islander groups to elevate Su, who had served as Walsh’s deputy.
“If indeed you weren’t chosen to be the next Secretary of Labor, I’d be chased out of town,” Biden joked at the summit of Wednesday’s East Room event.
During his comments Biden pointed out that Su was the fourth Asian-American woman to serve in his cabinet, though the others are not secretaries.
They contain Vice President Kamala Harris, U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai and Arati Prabhakar, who heads the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, which Biden has elevated to a cabinet-level agency.
She was born in Wisconsin and is the daughter of Chinese immigrants. Her mother was a union worker and her father owned a small business,” Biden said of Su.
The president pointed out how Su went to law school and eventually became Secretary of Labor “in a state about the size of the rest of America,” California.
Julie is the American dream. More importantly, she is committed to ensuring that dream is within the reach of every American,” the president said.
Su (right) brought up her mother’s immigration story when she was given the stage to speak by Biden (left)
Su brought up her mother’s immigration story when she was given the podium.
“Sixty years ago, my mother came to the United States on a cargo ship because she couldn’t afford a passenger ticket,” Su said. “Recently she received a call from the President of the United States telling her that her daughter would be nominated as the United States Secretary of Labor.”
“So I believe in the transformative power of America. And I know the transformative power of a good job,” Su said. “I know, because it was the kind of job my mom got with predictable hours, paid sick leave, medical benefits, a steady income, and a pension when she retired — a union job that gave my parents a path to the middle class and gave us family the kind of breathing space the president talks about.”
As Minister of Labor, Su promised to fight for the forgotten worker.
“When the president talks about those who are forgotten or invisible, I know what he means because I’ve fought all my career to make sure they are seen,” she said. “So to all the workers who toil in the shadows, to the workers who organize for power and respect in the workplace, know that we see you, we stand beside you and we fight for you.”
Senator Bernie Sanders, the chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, through which Su’s nomination must pass, praised Biden’s choice in a tweet Tuesday.
“I am confident that Julie Su will be an excellent labor minister,” he wrote. “I look forward to working with her to protect workers’ rights and build the trade union movement in this country.”
But Democrats are trailing one vote due to the absence of Sen. John Fetterman of Pennsylvania, who is being treated for severe depression at Walter Reed. However, Harris can still break a tie if the vote for Lu is completely partisan.
One issue that could stumble her nomination is the massive California unemployment fraud that took place under her watch during the early period of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The White House defended her performance Tuesday after Biden announced Su as his pick.
“Look, when the pandemic hit, red and blue states were dealing with fragile, outdated technology. And under Julie’s leadership, California has taken significant steps to process a historic number of claims — one in five nationwide,” Deputy Press Secretary Olivia Dalton told reporters aboard Air Force One.