Unions condemn Leppink ouster

Minnesota Senate Republicans rejected the confirmation of Gov. Tim Walz’s commissioner of the Department of Labor and Industry 18 months into her term, in a show of legislative muscle that Walz called a “petty political move.”
The Minnesota AFL-CIO issued a statement condeming the move. “Senate Republicans’ sudden action to remove the Commissioner of Labor & Industry during a pandemic is a slap in the face to working Minnesotans who are depending on the department to keep them safe on the job,” the statement said. “For Senate Republicans to remove such a qualified leader is a blatantly partisan move that shows why we need a new majority in the State Senate that will put working Minnesotans first. We will remember how Senators voted.”
The 34-32 vote signals Republicans’ — and their base voters’ — increasing frustration over Walz’s use of emergency powers to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.
“There will be a reckoning on this,” Walz said.
Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-East Gull Lake, defended his caucus’s vote, saying Commissioner Nancy Leppink was failing in her duties.
Leppink has been leading the department since February 2019, but the Republican-controlled Senate never voted to confirm her or most of Walz’s other cabinet appointments, leaving them vulnerable to later political maneuvering.
It’s uncommon for the Senate not to confirm a commissioner. The last time it happened was in 2008, when Democrats rejected Carol Molnau as Department of Transportation commissioner.
Senate Republicans also voted to end Walz’s emergency powers, but the DFL-controlled House adjourned after declining to do so, and they are likely to continue to give the first-term DFL governor broad authority to handle the pandemic over the
objections of the House GOP minority.
But Senate Republicans, having waited to confirm Walz appointees, can empty his cabinet to force him to negotiate away some of his powers or relent on stalemated legislation.
House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, all but acknowledged the strategy in a flippant tweet:
“Looks like the senate is executing a prisoner today,” he tweeted. That attitude drew condemnation from supporters of Leppink.
Leppink is a lifelong government employee, having worked for 24 years in Minnesota government before serving in President Barack Obama’s administration as a deputy administrator in the U.S. Department of Labor. During her nearly two years at the helm of the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry, Leppink prioritized going after employers for wage theft and for failing to have adequate worker protections as businesses reopened during the pandemic.

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