Bloomberg Law
June 7, 2023, 4:28 PMUpdated: June 7, 2023, 6:16 PM

DOL’s Su Seeks Funding as GOP Members Question Cooperation (1)

Diego Areas Munhoz
Diego Areas Munhoz

Acting Labor Secretary Julie Su faced Republican criticism for not collaborating with Congress while requesting increased funding for the US Labor Department at her first hearing in the House since taking over the agency.

Su, whose nomination to fill the role permanently languishes in the Senate, appeared before the Education and the Workforce Committee Wednesday after multiple requests by Chair Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.). In her opening remarks, Foxx said that Su attempted to cancel her appearance last week, and only showed up to defend the DOL’s budgetary priorities after the threat of a subpoena.

This hearing “is about assessing the budget proposal for the Department of Labor and the Department’s performance and adherence to its statutory mandate,” said Foxx. “However, your effort to evade transparency at the eleventh-hour calls into question your ability to fulfill your duty as a potential Secretary of Labor.”

In response, Su said she acknowledged the panel’s oversight authority and committed to collaboration, but didn’t answer a yes-or-no question from Foxx over whether the agency would fully respond to future committee requests.

Budget Needs

Su told lawmakers the agency will need more cash to improve enforcement of workplace safety regulations, increase investment in apprenticeship programs, and expand mental health benefits for workers through the Employee Benefits Security Administration.

But the acting DOL chief also acknowledged that under the deal President Joe Biden struck with House Republicans to raise the debt ceiling, Congress will operate under spending caps for next year’s budget.

Su didn’t include in her remarks the DOL’s request for more funding to its Wage and Hour Division, which the department has said would help in enforcing child labor law violations. Su and the DOL have come under fire from Republicans who say the rise in infractions is due to a lack of competency, not a lack of resources.

“The taxpayers are not giving a blank check for the Department’s ineptitude, and WHD does not deserve a a dollar more,” Foxx said.

Ultimately, the House Education and the Workforce Committee doesn’t hold the purse strings. While the Committee holds oversight authority over the DOL, appropriations panels in the House and Senate draft the agency’s budget. Su hasn’t testified in either of those committees.

‘Child Labor Crisis’

Committee Republicans, who assert the child labor issue stems from a failure to curb illegal immigration, said the DOL isn’t taking an all-hands-on-deck approach to the “crisis” in child labor law violations. Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.) said Su and other DOL officials have “ignored” the issue, and that it shows a “night and day” contrast to the Trump administration’s approach.

Su responded that the DOL has launched a taskforce with the Department of Health and Human Services to tackle the issue, and said the department needs more funding for enforcement. Su also proposed that Congress raise fines for employers who hire children to work illegally.

The top Democrat on the committee, Bobby Scott (D-Va.), and Rep. Alma Adams (R-N.C.) on Tuesday asked Foxx to hold a hearing on child labor this month in a letter obtained by Bloomberg Law. Additionally, they said they will soon introduce a “comprehensive bill” to toughen penalties, update standards for occupations too hazardous for children, and track child labor violation statistics.

Nomination Stalemate

Su’s nomination faces an uphill battle in the Senate, where a handful of moderate lawmakers continue to hedge about confirming her.

The delay has put the DOL at a regulatory standstill.

A rule on worker classification was expected to be finalized by May, and Su didn’t say when it will issued. When asked by Rep. Tim Walberg (R-Mich.) about expected rule proposals on overtime pay and the definition of 401(k) investment advice, Su didn’t offer a timeframe.

“We take a very deliberative approach,” she said.

Su also refused to answer whether the department would make a change to the joint employer standard, only saying that a rule on the issue wasn’t on the agency’s agenda.

Business and Republican opposition against Su has focused on her past record as California’s labor secretary. While in the role, Su helped enforce a controversial law that broadly categorizes most workers as employees.

She also faces criticism over massive pandemic-related unemployment insurance fraud during her time there, which her opponents say speaks to a lack of managerial skills.

(Updated with additional reporting throughout.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Diego Areas Munhoz in Washington, D.C. at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Genevieve Douglas at; Martha Mueller Neff at

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