A Senate panel on Thursday again approved Lisa Gomez to head the Department of Labor’s oversight of retirement policy, and she returned to the familiar position of awaiting a vote by the full Senate.
In a mostly party line vote, 12-9, the Senate Health Education Labor and Pensions Committee advanced to the Senate floor Gomez’s nomination to be the assistant secretary of Labor for the Employee Benefits Security Administration. One Republican joined the panel’s Democrats in voting for Gomez.
The committee previously approved Gomez in December. But the Senate didn’t hold a confirmation vote before the first session of Congress concluded at the end of the year. That returned her nomination to the White House, and she had to go back through the committee process.
It’s not clear when the Senate will vote on her nomination. A spokesperson for Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., did not respond to a request for comment.
“Many of us are hopeful that will occur sooner rather than later,” said Michael Kreps, principal at Groom Law Group. “Unfortunately, the political environment is not conducive to moving nominees.”
Democrats and Republicans in the Senate are fighting over voting reform legislation, with Democrats hinting they may change filibuster rules to advance the measure. Doing so would incense the GOP.
Administration nominees can get caught in the crossfire, as Republicans try to slow the legislative process.
“Nominations have become a tool of obstruction in the Senate,” Kreps said.
As Gomez awaits a Senate vote, the DOL is working on a number of regulations that affect financial advisers, including rules governing investment advice for retirement plans and the use of environmental, social and governance factors in selecting retirement investments.
“They need competent, experienced political leadership fully in place in order to handle that workload,” Kreps said.
The EBSA director role has been vacant since Preston Rutledge, who held the position in the Trump administration, stepped down in May 2020. Since late March, the agency has continued its rulemaking operations under the leadership of acting assistant secretary Ali Khawar.
The White House nominated Gomez last July, and she had an October hearing before the HELP Committee. Gomez is a partner at the labor law firm Cohen Weiss and Simon, where she specializes in employee benefits law, working with employer and union retirement plan sponsors on compliance with the federal retirement law, the Employees Retirement Income Security Act.
Gomez’s private-sector experience would benefit the DOL, Kreps said.
“It puts things in different light if you haven’t always been a regulator,” he said. “She’s had to work with people to administer retirement and health plans, and that’s good experience.”
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Andrew is half-human, half-gamer. He’s also a science fiction author writing for BleeBot.