House panel threatens to subpoena Biden’s Labor chief over return-to-work plan

Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.), chair of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, on Wednesday threatened to subpoena acting Secretary of Labor Julie Su for information regarding the department’s return-to-work plan.

In a committee hearing Wednesday morning in which Su testified, Foxx said she plans to serve a subpoena to the Labor chief if she does not hand over the requested information by Monday.

“We got 19 hours before this committee hearing, a tranche of material we asked for months ago, we got last night,” Foxx said. “I’d also like to provide notice to the ranking member that I intend to serve a subpoena to the acting secretary if we do not receive by May 6, the department’s return-to-office plan, which the White House chief of staff instructed the agency to prepare and submit by Jan. 26.”

The threat comes nearly two months after Foxx sent a letter to Su on March 6 pressing her over the department’s failure to submit their return-to-office policies after the White House requested the information. The North Carolina Republican asked Su to do so by March 20.

“Despite repeated pleas from the White House, it appears as though DOL has failed to make any meaningful efforts to respect taxpayer dollars and return to in person work,” Foxx wrote in March. “On Sept. 18, 2022 President Biden declared that ‘the pandemic is over.’ However, many agencies across the federal government have retained remote work policies instituted during the pandemic.”

Foxx pointed to an analysis from the Government Accountability Office that found the DOL and five other agencies used an estimated 23 percent of their headquarters space on average. Calling this “unacceptable,” Foxx referenced guidance from the Office of Budget and Management (OMB) issued in April 2023 that urged federal workers to return to the office full time.

“An accurate understanding of the headquarters staffing situation is necessary for the committee to ensure that DOL is undertaking its mandates faithfully and in accordance with the law,” Foxx wrote. “Furthermore, employees failing to return to the office could expose taxpayers to significant waste, fraud and abuse.”

Foxx reiterated her frustrations Wednesday in response to Su’s request for a bigger budget.

“As long as people are only coming in five days in two weeks, that isn’t going to fly with me. Bring people back into the office. Then you can come and talk to us about more money,” Foxx said.

The Hill reached out the Department of Labor for further comment.

Su’s nomination to replace former Labor Secretary Marty Walsh has faced numerous roadblocks over the past year amid backlash from Republicans in the Senate.

Su was nominated by President Biden last March to fill in for filled in for Walsh, but the nomination was never voted on in the upper chamber. By June, it appeared Democratic leadership made little progress in convincing holdouts to back her nomination.

She was renominated by Biden to serve as Labor secretary in January, and the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee advanced the nomination in a party-line vote in February. It has yet not been brought to the Senate floor for a full vote.

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