Lisa M. Gomez appears on her way to become the next assistant secretary of labor for the Employee Benefits Security Administration.
At her confirmation hearing Thursday before the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, Ms. Gomez, a partner at law firm Cohen, Weiss and Simon and the chairwoman of its management committee, fielded questions about key issues facing EBSA, but no criticism about her nomination.
When critical, Republicans on the committee, including ranking member Richard Burr of North Carolina, mostly focused on Democrats' efforts to pass a major social-spending plan.
Ms. Gomez, whom President Joe Biden nominated in July, said leading the Department of Labor's EBSA would be a dream job.
"I've spent the last 27 years, my entire legal career, representing employee benefit plans," Ms. Gomez said in her opening remarks. "My work has focused on protecting the benefits of workers and their families and helping them to understand their benefits. It has also centered on counseling plan sponsors so that they can comprehend and appreciate their responsibilities to participants and their families.
"My extensive experience with plans, with employees and employers in a broad and diverse range of industries, with different concerns and needs has given me a fuller understanding of how to serve them all best."
Ms. Gomez wasn't asked many pointed questions but was asked her thoughts on some pressing issues before the department.
Sen. Tina Smith, D-Minn., asked Ms. Gomez about multiemployer pension plans following passage in March of the American Rescue Plan Act, which in part created a federal assistance program for struggling multiemployer funds. If confirmed, Ms. Gomez said she expects to be "fully briefed on the current status of the rule-making process and to work with the other departments in making sure that we implement a program that achieves the mission of that law and has the appropriate safeguards so that the plans that are entitled to this relief and eligible for this relief will receive the assistance that they need."
Following a line of questions from Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., on the definition of fiduciary, Ms. Gomez said if she's confirmed she will work with department staffers and the Securities and Exchange Commission to examine the definition "in different contexts" and take "another look at the conflict-of-interest rule and how it would apply in different situations."
EBSA in June announced plans to issue a proposed rule that could broaden who's considered a fiduciary under ERISA.
Senators did not ask Ms. Gomez about EBSA's forthcoming rules on the environmental, social and governance factors in selecting plan investments and the fiduciary duties for proxy voting. The White House's Office of Management and Budget completed its review of the rules this week and EBSA could release the proposals any day.
Ms. Gomez testified alongside Jose Javier Rodriguez, Mr. Biden's pick to lead the Labor Department's Employment and Training Administration.
Their nominations have to clear the committee and then will head to the full Senate. A vote in the committee has yet to be scheduled, but Chairwoman Patty Murray, D-Wash., endorsed both nominees.
Regarding Ms. Gomez, Ms. Murray said, "Given your deep experience in employee benefits law, I believe you are a highly qualified pick to lead EBSA."
Ali Khawar has been leading EBSA as acting assistant secretary. If Ms. Gomez were to be confirmed, Mr. Khawar would retain his other position as principal deputy assistant secretary.