Solís Confirmation Hits Another Snag: Obama's Cabinet Could End Up With Only One Latino Member

By Diego Graglia, FI2W web editor

While her would-be successors are already lining up in Los Angeles, the confirmation of U.S. Rep. Hilda Solís as the next secretary of labor has been held up in the Senate, apparently due to her husband’s tax problems.


Hilda Solís (Photo: USA Today/AP)

As Feet In 2 Worlds noted in December, Solís was one of the three big hopes for Latinos who are looking for greater representation in Pres. Barack Obama’s cabinet. Of the other two, former Sen. Ken Salazar, the new secretary of the interior, is the only one who has been confirmed. New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson withdrew his name from consideration as secretary of commerce over a federal investigation into his administration’s dealings with a consulting company.

Solís, the 51-year-old daughter of a Mexican father and a Nicaraguan mother, is the latest Obama nominee to have to explain unpaid taxes — although the problem does not arise from her own taxes, unlike the cases of Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner, and the former nominees for secretary of health and human services, Tom Daschle, and White House chief performance officer, Nancy Killefer.

The would-be labor official’s problems started after USA Today revealed Thursday there were 15 outstanding tax liens against Sam’s Foreign and Domestic Auto Center, a company owned by Solís’ husband, Sam Sayyad. A hearing by the Senate’s Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee was postponed Thursday afternoon to give the administration time to look into the tax matter and report back to the committee, according to the newspaper.

It is still not clear whether Solís’ nomination is in jeopardy. Were she to withdraw from consideration, however, it would be a hard blow to the hopes of Latino advocates and politicians who had pushed strongly for Latinos to take a major role in the Obama administration.

Solís was seen as an ally not only by unions –she comes from a union family– but also by advocates for farm workers and pro-immigrant groups. The San Francisco Chronicle reported this week,

Immigrant advocates hope that strengthening compliance with workplace health and safety laws and wage and hour standards — which Solis promised in her hearing before the labor committee in January — will protect workers in general and could reduce the likelihood that some employers will seek to profit by hiring undocumented workers.

As The Washington Post notes today, Solís had already seen her confirmation vote by the HELP Committee delayed over her role as treasurer of a group that lobbied Congress on a bill she sponsored, and over her support for a measure that would make it easier for workers to organize unions.

With yesterday’s delay in the Senate, the chances for her confirmation look a bit slimmer. If her nomination fails it would be a hit to both the Obama administration as well as to Latinos who hoped for stronger representation in the cabinet.

AboutDiego Graglia
Diego Graglia is a bilingual multimedia journalist who has worked at major media outlets in the U.S. and Latin America. He is currently the editor-in-chief at Expansion, Meixco’s leading business magazine.