Manchin seeks alternatives to Biden labor secretary nominee Julie Su

WASHINGTON — Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin does not plan to support President Joe Biden’s nominee for labor secretary and has solicited a list of alternate candidates, according to two sources with knowledge of the matter.

Manchin’s opposition to nominee Julie Su could prove fatal if another senator who caucuses with Democrats also opposes her.

After Manchin, D-W.Va., met last week with Su he joined a call with the International Franchise Association, which opposes Su’s nomination because of her support for policies that the organization says “would dismantle the franchise business model.”

“IFA has suggested several alternatives to…Su in the mold of former Secretary Marty Walsh, who received bipartisan support and brought parties together,” an IFA spokesperson told NBC News in an emailed statement.

Su currently serves as the acting labor secretary and was nominated by Biden to succeed Marty Walsh, who stepped down this year to lead the National Hockey League Players Association. In 2021, she was confirmed by a three-vote margin for deputy labor secretary in the face of unanimous Republican opposition.

The IFA spokesperson also said the group provided alternatives to “a number of Senators,” several of whom have yet to reveal publicly their intentions on Su.

Democrat-turned-independent Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona was on the same call with Manchin, according to two sources.

Manchin met with Su for nearly 45 minutes on May 3, telling reporters afterward that it was “very good” and “respectful,” but that he hadn’t yet decided how he planned to vote on her nomination. Asked if he had a timeline for when he’ll make up his mind, Manchin replied no.

“There’s still some, there’s still some things I need to check into,” Manchin said at the time. “We’re going through some things. We had a good dialogue.”

Manchin typically looks for alternatives and presents it to Senate leadership when he announces opposition to a nominee, one source told NBC News.

It’s unclear at this point if Manchin will announce his intention not to support Su. A source with knowledge of the matter told NBC News that Manchin had not yet declared his position because he was waiting for Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., to return to work after suffering from health issues. Feinstein is expected to back Su.

Manchin is also waiting for the possibility that Sinema will come out in support of Su, the source added.

When reached for comment, a spokesperson for Manchin said the senator “has not announced his position on this nomination and will not comment on rumors.”

A spokesperson for Sinema would not say whether she plans to support Su.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., has not publicly said when a vote on Su’s nomination will take place on the Senate floor, and senators are not scheduled to be back in session until after Memorial Day.

Schumer’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment Friday night.

In the narrowly divided Senate, if Manchin were to vote against Su, just one more defection on his side of the aisle could tank her nomination. It’s unclear where other Democratic moderates like Sens. Mark Kelly of Arizona and Jon Tester of Montana, as well as Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, stand on Su’s nomination.

Manchin, Sinema, King, Kelly and Tester all supported her for the deputy post in 2021.

Outside of Washington, trade groups in West Virginia and Arizona — the home states of Manchin, Kelly and Sinema — sent letters to their senators urging them to oppose Su just before her April confirmation hearing before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

On Friday night, a White House official told NBC News that “Su is continuing the work that she and Secretary Walsh started and we continue to press for [her] Senate confirmation.”

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