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President Donald Trump on Thursday announced law school dean R. Alexander Acosta as his new labor secretary nominee, one day after his original pick abruptly withdrew from consideration.
Trump said Acosta, who did not appear with the president, "has had a tremendous career." He noted that, unlike Andrew Puzder, Acosta has been confirmed by the Senate three times and "did very, very well."
If confirmed anew by the Senate, Acosta would become the first Hispanic member of Trump's Cabinet. He is now dean of the Florida International University (FIU) law school.
Puzder, a fast-food CEO, pulled out on Wednesday after it became clear he lacked the votes to win Senate confirmation.
Trump said he had spoken with Acosta before coming to the East Room for the hastily arranged news conference, where he made the announcement.
"I wish him the best," Trump said. At a White House event earlier, he had described Acosta - without identifying him - as a "star" and a "great person."
Acosta has served on the National Labor Relations Board and as a federal prosecutor in Florida. He was named assistant attorney general for civil rights by President George W. Bush.
Hispanic groups praised the nomination, and Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, a Republican who backed Puzder and will chair Acosta's confirmation hearing, said Acosta's prior Senate confirmations means the "nomination is off to a good start."
Javier Palomarez, president and CEO of the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, called Acosta an "outstanding choice."
"His record reflects a skill set and expertise both in the private and public sector which will serve the administration and the nation greatly," Palomarez said in a statement. He said the chamber looks forward to working with Acosta on a host of economic and labor issues.
Acosta became the second dean of FIU Law in 2009. A native of Miami and first-generation lawyer, he earned his undergraduate degree from Harvard College and his law degree from Harvard Law School. After serving as law clerk to Justice Samuel A. Alito, Jr., then a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, Acosta practiced law at a firm and taught law at George Mason School of Law in Fairfax, Va.
Acosta was also the first Hispanic to hold the rank of Assistant Attorney General. Most recently, he served as the U.S. Attorney for Southern District of Florida, and was the longest serving U.S. Attorney in the District since the 1970s.
Acosta serves as chair of U.S. Century Bank, the largest domestically owned Hispanic community bank in Florida and one of the 15 largest Hispanic community banks in the nation. In 2013, the South Florida Hispanic Chamber of Commerce presented Acosta with the Chairman’s Higher Education Award in recognition of his “outstanding achievements, leadership and determination throughout a lifetime of caring and giving back to the community.”
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