Labor Secretary Marty Walsh hasn’t gone anywhere yet, let alone confirmed plans to leave the Biden administration, but the political world is already talking about him in the past tense.
In the days since word leaked that Walsh is in contract negotiations to head up the NHL Players’ Association, D.C. politicos are already maneuvering to line up support for their preferred successor.
While it is fairly common for word to get out before a high-level departure is finalized, the Walsh situation is somewhat unusual for how widely it is being treated as a fait accompli.
There is a concerted push to get President Joe Biden to bump up DOL’s No. 2, Julie Su, both for her familiarity with the agency and labor policy — as well as to further diversify the Cabinet, which does not presently have an Asian American Pacific Islander at the secretary level.
She scored another key endorsement Thursday, from the Congressional Black Caucus, another girder in her support among influential Democrats who have the president’s ear. (Of course, Su hasn’t said publicly whether she’d want the job.)
Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi is trying to drum up support for former Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, who lost reelection while presiding over House Democrats’ campaign arm that saw the majority flip to Republicans in the midterms.
And long shots like ex-New York Mayor Bill de Blasio are also reportedly trying to get into the mix.
Walsh’s silence on the matter has caused embarrassment in some quarters, particularly in Massachusetts, where he was mayor of Boston before Biden tapped him to run the Labor Department.
State Lt. Gov. Kim Driscoll posted — then swiftly deleted — a congratulatory message about Walsh’s returning to organized labor, and state Rep. Smitty Pignatelli was also among those to post a sendoff.
“Congratulations to my longtime friend @marty_walsh. A huge loss to the @POTUS but a big bonus to the @NHL He leads with his heart and common sense,” Pignatelli tweeted Thursday.
The White House and Labor Department have both insisted that there is no vacancy — as of now — though that has done little to tamp things down. A DOL spokesperson declined to comment on Friday.
Meanwhile, Walsh has continued to appear in public in his capacity as Labor secretary.
On Monday, he led an event commemorating the 30th anniversary of the passage of the Family Medical Leave Act. A day later — as the NHLPA development came out — the White House tasked Walsh with being the designated survivor if most of the federal hierarchy was wiped out while attending Biden’s State of the Union address, a coincidence that also garnered intrigue.
But he hit the road on behalf of the administration Thursday, traveling to Tulsa, Okla., to amplify Biden’s message and promote Black-owned businesses and economic justice initiatives.
During a visit to Black Wall Street, the African American financial district destroyed by a white mob in 1921, Walsh said: “The President spoke the other night in his State of the Union about lifting all America up and moving forward, and that’s part of why I’m here today.”
It was all business as usual.
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