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December 22, 2014

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Reid touts new labor secretary before friendly union crowd

Harry Reid

Harry Reid

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid had something of a trophy to display to Las Vegas labor unions Wednesday.

When Reid introduced new Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez at the Nevada State AFL-CIO convention at the Excalibur on Wednesday morning, he touted Democrats’ recent victory over Republicans in getting President Barack Obama’s nominees like Perez confirmed for various cabinet-level agencies.

The fight had pushed Reid to threaten what D.C. political followers dubbed the “nuclear option,” a change to the Senate rules that would have weakened the minority party -- currently the Republicans -- in the Senate and allowed Democrats to unilaterally push Obama nominees to confirmation.

Republicans led by Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., vigorously protested the proposed change, which Reid said he would introduce again in the future if Democrats encounter what they deem to be Republican obstructionism in appointing the President’s nominees.

“We hope we’re over that hog for now or we’ll have to continue on that path we did,” Reid said.

Perez had waited for months as the Senate postponed votes confirming the President’s nominees.

“He waited a long time to be confirmed because of what was going on in the Senate,” Reid said of Perez.

Both Reid and Perez received a standing ovation from union members gathered at the Excalibur to hear Reid and other Democrats speak.

Reid lambasted Republicans, repeating a refrain that Tea Party conservatives are “modern-day anarchists” before introducing Perez to the friendly crowd. (One union member had made a quilt from Obama campaign t-shirts from last year’s election and had displayed it at the back of the conference hall.)

Perez repeated Obama’s calls for more infrastructure investment and echoed Reid’s comments in support of the Senate’s immigration overhaul bill.

He also called for a higher federal minimum wage, saying higher wages would free people from working three or four jobs to support their families and give them more quality time to spend with their loved ones.

“The bottom line on a minimum wage is this: anybody who works 40-hours a week should not live in poverty, plain and simple,” he said.

Following brief remarks, Reid and Perez departed for other events.

Reid, who is in Nevada while the Senate is at recess during August, also planned to speak to the Las Vegas Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce.

Perez plans to tour The Culinary Academy of Las Vegas, a training center opened jointly by Culinary Local 226 and Bartenders Union 165 and Strip resort hotels.

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