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Obama poised to make Labor pick

Potential nominee: Thomas Perez’s appointment would come as Obama pushes a major immigration overhaul.

Potential nominee: Thomas Perez’s appointment would come as Obama pushes a major immigration overhaul.

WASHINGTON — President Obama is close to naming Thomas Perez, a civil rights official in the Justice Department, as his choice to head the Department of Labor, several people familiar with the process have confirmed.

His nomination could come as early as Monday, according to the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak before to the official announcement.

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If confirmed by the Senate, Perez would replace Hilda Solis, who resigned in January. White House spokesman Matt Lehrich declined to comment Sunday.

Perez, 51, has led the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division since 2009 and previously served as Maryland’s labor secretary.

He is a graduate of Brown University and Harvard Law School and received a public policy degree from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. Before joining the Justice Department, he was on the staff of the late Senator Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts.

Perez, a first-generation Dominican-American, is expected to have solid support from organized labor as well as the Hispanic community, which is eager to have representation in Obama’s second-term Cabinet. Solis was the first Hispanic woman to head an agency at the Cabinet level.

Perez, a resident of Takoma Park, Md., was the first Latino elected to the Montgomery County Council in Maryland, where he served from 2002 to 2006. He was state labor secretary from 2007 until 2009, when he was appointed to the Justice Department position.

Thomas Perez’s appointment would come as Obama pushes a major immigration overhaul.

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Perez would come to the Labor Department as Obama pushes a major immigration overhaul, which could include changes in how employers hire guest workers. Labor Department officials have also taken a prominent role in supporting Obama’s effort to raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $9 an hour.

At the Justice Department, Perez played a leading role in the decision to challenge voter ID laws in Texas and South Carolina that could restrict minority voting rights. A federal court later struck down the Texas law and delayed implementation of the law in South Carolina until after the 2012 election.

Perez was easily confirmed by the Senate for his Justice Department post, but since then, some GOP lawmakers have criticized his role in persuading the city of St. Paul, Minn., to withdraw a lending bias lawsuit from the Supreme Court. In exchange, the Justice Department declined to join two whistle-blower lawsuits against St. Paul that could have returned millions of dollars in damages to the federal government.

The St. Paul case had challenged the use of statistics to prove race discrimination under the 1968 Fair Housing Act, and Justice Department officials were concerned the court could strike down the practice.

A letter last year from four Republican lawmakers, including Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Representative Darrell Issa of California, criticized Perez for a ‘‘quid pro quo arrangement’’ that potentially cost taxpayers more than $180 million.

Perez declined to discuss his potential Cabinet appointment when reached by the Washington Post on Saturday.

Working in federal, state and local government has given Perez a broad background, according to colleagues and friends interviewed by the Post.

‘‘That is a very good range of experiences, a lot of perspective to see government at all those different angles,’’ said Ronald Weich, a former assistant attorney general for legislative affairs and now dean of the University of Baltimore’s law school.

In addition to the voter ID cases, Perez’s Civil Rights Division conducted 17 investigations of police and sheriff’s departments, the most in its 54-year history.

Material from the Washington Post was included in this report.
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