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Senate clears way for Perez confirmation as labor chief

Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division Thomas E. Perez speaks during a news conference at the Department of Justice in Was
Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division Thomas E. Perez speaks during a news conference at the Department of Justice in Was

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Senate moved on Wednesday toward approving Thomas Perez to serve as the Obama administration's new labor secretary, overcoming accusations from some Republicans that he is a crusading ideologue.

Six Republicans joined Democrats in a vote to reach the 60-vote threshold needed to limit debate on Perez. The chamber is expected to vote on his confirmation as early as Thursday.

The 51-year old Perez now heads the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division. Republicans have criticized his record on voting rights and immigration and have accused him of bending the laws to advance his liberal agenda.

If Perez wins confirmation, he will be the third controversial executive-branch nominee to win approval so far this week.

Republicans allowed Democrats to move ahead on a number of nominees after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid threatened to stop them from using procedural moves to block Obama's executive branch appointees.

So far this week, the Senate has approved Richard Cordray to lead the Consumer Protection Financial Bureau and confirmed Fred Hochberg to serve another term as president of the Export-Import bank.

The conservative Heritage Action group, which scores lawmakers on their conservative votes, urged Republicans to vote against Perez.

Republicans have also accused Perez of making a deal with St. Paul, Minnesota, to get the city to withdraw a Supreme Court appeal in exchange for the Justice Department not filing charges alleging St Paul had filed false claims in a government funding application.

Perez denies the allegations.

(This story has been corrected to fix names of group in paragraph seven)

(Reporting by Rachelle Younglai; Editing by Sandra Maler and David Brunnstrom)

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