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Support for Biden's labor secretary nominee in doubt heading into confirmation hearing

Some moderate Democrats remain on the fence about whether they'll support Julie Su's confirmation in the narrowly divided chamber.

President Joe Biden’s nomination of Julie Su for labor secretary appears to be in jeopardy as she prepares to testify at her Senate confirmation hearing Thursday, with some Democrats on the fence about supporting her in the narrowly split chamber.

Su is the acting labor secretary and was nominated by Biden to replace Marty Walsh, who stepped down this year to lead the National Hockey League Players Association.

Su is expected to face opposition from Republicans and possibly from some senators who caucus with Democrats once the nomination makes its way to the Senate floor.

Support for Biden's labor secretary nominee in doubt heading into confirmation hearing
Julie Su in Washington on March 16, 2021. Tom Williams / CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images file

Although progressives support Su, moderate Democrats have expressed skepticism about her nomination. NBC News reported last month that Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., Jon Tester, D-Mont., Mark Kelly, D-Ariz., and Kyrsten Sinema, I-Ariz., said they were undecided when asked whether they will back Su, despite supporting her confirmation to the deputy post in 2021. 

Su was narrowly confirmed that year to be deputy labor secretary by a three-vote margin. She did not receive any votes from Republicans. In the current Senate’s 51-49 breakdown, Democrats have little room for error for Su’s confirmation vote to succeed.

Asked about Su this week, Manchin told reporters “no comment,” while Tester said he will meet with her right after she testifies before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

Opponents of her nomination accuse Su of being a partisan activist and take issue with her past performance overseeing California’s unemployment program, which resulted in significant losses of money in fraud.

The top Republican on the Senate HELP Committee, Sen. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, will question Su at the hearing about whether she would pursue a political agenda leading the Labor Department and point out that she has no direct experience negotiating or handling labor disputes, committee spokesperson Ty Bofferding told NBC News.

Outside of Capitol Hill, a coalition of workers and businesses banded together with a “Stand Against Su” campaign. They condemned the nominee’s view of the tip credit system, which allows employees to be paid a lower minimum wage as long as they are earning at least the full minimum wage when tips are included.

Local trade groups in West Virginia and Arizona — the home states of Manchin, Kelly and Sinema — also recently sent letters to their senators urging them to oppose Su’s nomination.