Obama nominates civil rights attorney Tom Perez for labor secretary

Rachel Rose Hartman
The Ticket

UPDATE 12:09 p.m. ET

President Barack Obama on Monday highlighted the professional experience as well as the background of Assistant Attorney General Tom Perez, head of the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, as he announced Perez's nomination as the next secretary of labor.

Obama noted that Perez, son of immigrants from the Dominican Republic, learned early on in life that it "doesn't matter who you are or where you come from," you can succeed in America. Perez fought to "open pathways for all hardworking Americans," the president said.

A longtime public servant, Perez joined the Justice Department in 2009 after serving as secretary of Maryland's Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation, which works to protect consumers and employees.

Obama noted on Monday some of the myriad issues that Perez faces should he be confirmed, including the raising of the federal minimum wage, the need to assist veterans and the reforming of the country's immigration system.

The president has faced criticism for a lack of diversity in top administration nominations in his second term. If confirmed, Perez would replace Hilda Solis, who resigned in early January and was the first Hispanic woman to serve as a Cabinet member.

Perez's potential nomination has already drawn criticism from lawmakers, including Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, a Republican pushing a congressional investigation into an alleged deal the Justice Department made with the city of St. Paul, Minn., to withdraw from a housing discrimination case before the Supreme Court.