Senate panel vote delayed for Labor Dept. nominee

By: By SAM HANANEL, Associated Press Writer
By: By SAM HANANEL, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) - Another White House Cabinet pick is dealing with questions about unpaid taxes, but White House officials insist the confirmation of Labor Secretary-nominee Hilda Solis is not in jeopardy.

A Senate committee vote on Solis' nomination was abruptly postponed on Thursday after it became known that her husband had unpaid tax liens on his California auto repair business that were only settled this week for about $6,400.

While tax problems have dogged several of President Barack Obama's nominees - the latest forcing former Sen. Tom Daschle to withdraw his nomination as health secretary - administration officials say they are not blaming Solis for her husband's actions.

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said that Solis' own tax returns "are in order."

"She's not a partner in that business," Gibbs said. "So we're not going to penalize her for her husband's business mistakes."

USA Today reported that Los Angeles County records showed 15 outstanding state and county tax liens totaling $7,630 against Sam Sayyad and his business, some outstanding for as long as 16 years.

Tommy Vietor, another White House spokesman, said Solis and Sayyad were unaware of the liens until asked about them this week.

Vietor said Solis - a Los Angles-area congresswoman - and her husband file personal income taxes jointly, but that Sayyad is the sole proprietor of the business and all tax communications about it go only to him at a separate business address.

"Sayyad does not believe the penalties were accurately assessed, but he's paid them out of an abundance of caution and is planning to appeal," Vietor said.

The Democratic and Republican leaders of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee issued a joint statement minutes before the committee was to have met to vote on Solis' nomination to say that lawmakers need more time to review documentation about Solis.

Anthony Coley, a spokesman for the committee's chairman, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., said the panel asked the Obama administration to look into the tax issue and report back.

"We are optimistic that the committee will be able to move forward with her nomination soon," Coley said.

But Solis's confirmation was already stalled amid complaints from some Republican lawmakers about her role as a board member and treasurer of American Rights at Work, or ARW, a group pushing for passage of a bill to make it easier for workers to form unions.

Wyoming Sen. Mike Enzi, the committee's top Republican, has suggested that Solis should recuse herself for two years from debate over the Employee Free Choice Act because of her position with the group.

Solis said last week in written responses to Enzi that her role with the group did not involve lobbying and followed all House guidelines. She insisted she would not stay out of the debate over the legislation, which is the top priority for labor groups and is vehemently opposed by business groups and most Republicans in Congress.

The nation's largest labor federation, the AFL-CIO, plans to join with other unions, women's and Hispanic groups to pressure the Senate to confirm Solis, accusing Republican senators of stalling and delay.

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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