McLaughlin Appears Headed for Quick Confirmation as New Labor Secretary
WASHINGTON (AP) _ Ann Dore McLaughlin, President Reagan’s choice to succeed William Brock as labor secretary, appears headed towards a quick and easy confirmation by the Senate.
Within hours after Reagan formally nominated the former interior undersecretary to the labor post Tuesday, both Senate Democrats and labor leaders said they looked forward to working with her.
″I would be delighted to see her follow in the footsteps of Bill Brock or Frances Perkins,″ said Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., chairman of the Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee.
Miss Perkins was labor secretary from 1933 to 1945 under President Franklin D. Roosevelt and the first female Cabinet member
Even the 14.2 million-member AFL-CIO, which helped mount a grass-roots campaign that contributed to defeat of Reagan’s nomination of Robert H. Bork to the Supreme Court, extended a welcome to Mrs. McLaughlin.
″Depsite her lack of experience in the labor area, we will do everything in our power to help her carry out the purpose for which the Department of Labor was created,″ said the labor federation’s president, Lane Kirkland.
Mrs. McLaughlin herself alluded to Miss Perkins during a brief nomination ceremony Tuesday in the White House Rose Garden.
″Doubtless, there will be comments about my being a woman,″ she said, recounting what Miss Perkins had replied when asked if being a woman was a disadvantage in public life.
‴Only when I’m climbing trees,‴ Mrs. McLaughlin recalled Miss Perkins as saying at the time. ″And that was before blue jeans. So I have no reason to feel disadvantaged at all,″ Mrs. McLaughlin said.
Brock, 56, resigned from Reagan’s Cabinet last month after holding the labor post for 2 1/2 years to head the Republican presidential campaign of Senate Minority Leader Bob Dole of Kansas.
As his successor, Reagan said Mrs. McLaughlin, 45, who previously held high-level public affairs positions in the Treasury Department and the Environmental Protection Agency, would bring ″uncommon experience and competence″ to her new job.
Mrs. McLaughlin gave up the No. 2 post in the Interior Department, a job she had held for three years, last March following several clashes with Interior Secretary Donald P. Hodel.
″When I left your administration earlier this year, I had no idea I would be back so soon,″ she quipped to Reagan on Tuesday. ″I’ve heard a lot about the revolving door between government and the private sector, but this is a record-breaker.″
Sen. Orrin G. Hatch of Utah, senior Republican on the Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee, called the choice of Mrs. McLaughlin ″an inspired one. Ann has the ability and background to run the department.″
Neither Reagan nor Mrs. McLaughlin addressed any issues facing the department, including a large backlog of pending regulations in the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
But if confirmed by the Senate she can be expected to lead the administration ’s fight against a broad agenda of legislation being pushed in Congress by labor unions.
Among more than a dozen bills moving through Congress are measures to raise the minimum wage, frozen at $3.35 an hour since 1981; to require 60 days advance notice of plant closings;and large layoffs; and to require employer- provided health insurance.
With Democrats holding a 54-46 majority in the Senate, lobbyists for business groups said the AFL-CIO could block Mrs. McLaughlin’s confirmation if it wanted to.
″It appears that she was the least controversial of the candidates,″ said Pete Lunney, a lobbyist and labor relations specialist for the National Association of Manufacturers. ″My guess is that she will be no less vocal than Mr. Brock was in opposing most of labor’s bills.″
Mrs. McLaughlin, a native of Chatham, N.J., earned an undergraduate degree in 1963 from Marymount College. She was communications director for President Nixon’s re-election campaign in 1972 and his second inauguration in 1973. She had her own public relations company in Washington in the mid-1970s.
Her husband, John McLaughlin, is a well-known conservative political commentator and television talk show host. ″If she handled John McLaughlin this long, she can handle anything,″ Reagan quipped.
It is her broad experience as both a political insider and as a government administrator that was cited by many officials and lobbyists as why Mrs. McLaughlin is expected to win easy confirmation.
As Interior undersecretary, she reorganized government coal-leasing programs that had come under severe criticism while James Watt was secretary.
Described by colleagues as a ″very strong manager,″ she also forged several consensus compromises on oil and gas leasing programs, reducing the use of lead shot by bird hunters and marketing of water rights in the West.
That type of consensus-building was what the 14.2 million-member AFL-CIO, Senate Democrats and some business groups valued in Brock. But it also raised the ire of many conservatives, some of whom expressed a degree of wariness about his successor.
″We greet the nomination with cautious optimism,″ said Clayton Roberts, a spokesman for the National Right to Work Committee, an organization highly critical of unions. ″We hope that Mrs. McLaughlin recognizes that it is the Department of Labor, not the department of organized labor.′