Walsh Could Be Confirmed Monday, Gensler Vote Less Clear

Sources say there is a good chance Boston Mayor Marty Walsh will be confirmed by the full U.S. Senate Monday afternoon, but they are less sure about the timing of SEC Chair nominee Gary Gensler’s confirmation vote.

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh’s nomination for the role of secretary of labor took a small but important step forward Thursday, setting the stage for his final confirmation as soon as Monday afternoon.

As recounted in the formal congressional record, on Thursday, the Senate resumed consideration of Walsh’s nomination and voted 68 to 30 to close further debate on the nomination. Subsequently, a unanimous-consent agreement was reached, providing that the Senate resume consideration of the nomination at approximately 3 p.m. on Monday.

According to the record, the Senate agreement stipulates that a final confirmation vote be taken at 5:30 p.m. on Monday. Speaking on background to PLANADVISER, sources agree that Walsh’s confirmation is more or less certain at this juncture. They cite the fact that his nomination hearing, held in early February, saw a significant degree of bipartisan agreement as an indication that Walsh is a good fit for the job.

At the hearing, Walsh spoke proudly of his labor roots and his ties to Boston, while responding to questions about the DOL’s mission. Though the hearing presented a wealth of commentary from the nominee and the senators on the committee, retirement industry stakeholders might have been a bit disappointed in the end. Relatively little of the hearing’s airtime, either on the part of Walsh or the questioning senators, was dedicated to retirement security issues. Given Walsh’s deep ties to organized labor, the nominee and senators paid some attention to the multiemployer union pension funding crisis, but much more time was spent on issues such as the federal minimum wage, systemic economic inequality and the recovery from the pandemic.

While some news reports have emerged suggesting the Senate could also vote on Monday on the pending nomination of Gary Gensler to chair the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), sources say this is not necessarily confirmed. Indeed, the congressional record does not indicate a vote is set on Monday, though a vote could be scheduled before then.

Gensler’s hearing occurred more recently, in early March, and it saw significantly more partisanship than was on display during Walsh’s hearing. This is partly due to the fact that Gensler’s hearing also included debate about the nomination of Rohit Chopra to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), though Gensler himself faced scrutiny from various Senate Republicans.

Given the divided nature of the hearing, sources largely anticipated Gensler’s nearly party-line vote of 14 to 10, suggesting the full Senate vote could be tighter for Gensler (and Chopra) than for other cabinet picks debated and voted on thus far. At this point, sources seem more confident that Gensler will be confirmed in short order relative to Chopra, who received a rare 12 to 12 committee vote. That vote still technically means Chopra’s nomination can come before the full Senate, but sources say the full Senate vote could be very tight.