News Releases

Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) delivered the following opening remarks at the Senate HELP Hearing on the Nomination of Seth Harris for Deputy Secretary and M. Patricia Smith for Solicitor of the Department of Labor.

“First, I’d like to send my warmest wishes to our Chairman, Senator Kennedy, who continues to be a great champion for America’s workers. 

“The Department of Labor is charged with a critical mission in our nation’s government that includes fostering and promoting the welfare of America’s workers by: improving their working conditions, advancing their opportunities for profitable employment, protecting their retirement and health care benefits, helping employers find workers, and strengthening free collective bargaining.

“Few things are more important during these challenging economic times than ensuring that the agency charged with serving and protecting workers has the leadership it needs to make that mission a reality.

“So, I’m pleased to have two nominees with us today who have answered the call to service, are committed to the task at hand, and are highly qualified for the job. 

“Seth Harris has been a professor of law at New York Law School since 2000 and is currently serving as a consultant at the Department of Labor. 

“Seth helped lead the Obama Administration’s Agency Review Working Group on Education, Labor, and Transportation.  And he has experience at the Department. 

“From 1993 to 2000, he served in several roles at Labor, including Acting Assistant Secretary for Policy, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy, and senior advisor to both Secretary Alexis Herman and Robert Reich. 

“M. Patricia Smith has been the Commissioner of the New York State Department of Labor since 2007.  She is co-chair of New York State’s Economic Security sub-cabinet, and oversees 3,700 employees in 80 offices with an annual budget of $4 billion. 

“For the previous 20 years, Tricia worked in the Labor Bureau of the New York Attorney General’s Office. And, she served on the Obama Administration’s transition review team for the Department of Labor.

“As Chair of the Subcommittee on Employment and Workplace Safety, I know the challenges that America’s workers are facing right now.  And, I know the previous Administration’s track record on putting workers first is less than stellar.

“So, I’m pleased that the Obama Administration has made it clear that working families will once again be a top priority in this country.  And that commitment is demonstrated by the quality of nominees before us today.

“If confirmed as Deputy Secretary, Seth will face the tremendous challenge of allocating and managing the Department’s resources effectively in order to enforce the laws under the agency’s charge.  He will also be charged with connecting the efforts across Labor into a larger strategic plan to accomplish the Department’s mission. 

“If confirmed as the Department’s top legal counsel, Tricia will have the profound responsibility of enforcing more than 180 federal laws and managing more than 450 attorneys nationwide.

“She will be responsible for defending the Department in litigation, as well as providing legal advice and guidance on nearly every policy, legislative, regulatory, and enforcement initiative of the Department.

“Most importantly, she will responsible for defending the rights of workers when they aren’t able to speak for themselves.

“Both of you have a big job ahead of you if confirmed.  And working families need the Department to be the advocate Congress intended it to be—a charge that I know neither of you takes lightly.

“I want to thank both of you for taking the time to speak with me. After our conversations, I am confident that both of you are highly qualified for the positions you have been nominated for.  And I encourage my colleagues to move through this process quickly, so you can get to work.

“America’s working families need a fully functioning Department of Labor more than ever. So, thank you for being here.”