Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott yesterday threatened to hold up Alexis Herman's nomination to be labor secretary until President Clinton withdraws plans to force federal contractors to unionize.
"We think it's a big mistake for the president to be suggesting that in order to get federal contracts, [companies] must in fact meet the approval of labor unions," the Mississippi Republican said. He said the plans violate federal law and competitive bidding regulations.
"There's a big concern developing" among Republicans, who are ready to block not only the Herman nomination, but the Labor Department's funding, he said.
The White House did not have any immediate comment. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat, was working furiously yesterday to find a way to pry the troubled nomination loose.
"It's unfortunate the leadership has tied the nomination to this," said Jim Manley, a spokesman for Mr. Kennedy, who noted it could take months to sort out the legal questions surrounding the White House plans.
At issue are an executive order and regulations the White House is drafting that would impose major new pro-labor requirements on companies bidding for $200 billion of construction work and other services contracted out by the government each year.
Another $120 billion of school construction projects also could be affected by the rules, since they apply to school districts and other local governments that accept federal funding, GOP aides said.
The rules would require companies to have a "satisfactory labor record" to get contracts and would bar the use of federal money to fight unions. They also could force the debarment of contractors who are the subject of enforcement actions by the National Labor Relations Board and other federal agencies.
Vice President Al Gore first hinted that the edicts were coming at an AFL-CIO executive council session in February.
Republicans and business organizations say the rules are a payoff to the powerful labor union for the millions it spent on Mr. …