National Press Club

Perez dodges questions about VP chances, slams Trump without naming him

June 22, 2016 | By Michelle Amber |

Labor Secretary Thomas Perez highlighted a number of recent rulemakings that he said would benefit American workers and retirees.

Labor Secretary Thomas Perez highlighted a number of recent rulemakings that he said would benefit American workers and retirees.

Photo/Image: Noel St. John

U.S. Labor Secretary Thomas Perez repeatedly declined on June 22 to answer questions about whether he is being considered as a running mate with presumptive Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

At a National Press Club luncheon, Perez, who has been mentioned as one of nine possible candidates being considered by Clinton for vice president, would not say whether he is being vetted.

“What I know is I love my work and I have 212 days left," he said. "I will do everything possible to leave the Labor Department better than I found it and help more people get access to opportunities in that process.”

While not naming him, Perez took a shot at Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee.

“Some politicians find it expedient to exploit people’s worst fears, to accentuate the negative and eliminate the positive, and turn people against each other, instead of toward each other,” he said. He added that those people are peddling the “fiction that America is on the decline,” a fact that he disputed.

America actually is doing remarkably better than it was in 2009 during the economic crisis, Perez said.

Noting that 2.3 million jobs were lost in the three months before President Barack Obama took office, Perez said that “we’re in the middle of the longest streak of private-sector job growth on record -- 75 consecutive months” of growth, with 14.5 million jobs created.

The unemployment rate, which had been inching toward 10 percent, is now under 5 percent, he added.

Over the last seven years, the Obama administration used every “tool in our toolkit to help improve the lives of millions of working people,” Perez said.

Making changes through regulation has proven easier than achieving them through legislation, according to Perez.

“We must move forward; but, regrettably, we have not had a dance partner in the U.S. Congress,” he said.

In just the last couple of months, the Labor Department completed “historic rule making on issues at the heart of what it means to be middle class in America,” he said, including regulations limiting workers’ exposure to silica dust, updating overtime rules and protecting retirement accounts by raising investment-advice standards.

America is its best when “we offer a hand to working people who have gotten knocked down…when workers get a chance to share in the prosperity they help to create…. when everyone has a voice at work …when people get the tools they need to succeed at work and at home …and when we fully enforce laws that protect workers,” Perez said.

The unfinished business of the economic recovery, he said, is to build on the foundation, scaling it and sustaining it and making sure “we build an America that works for everyone-an America of shared prosperity for all not simply prosperity for a few at the top.”