By Jon Keller

BOSTON (CBS) – Boston sports fans love a good fight, and if it’s between politicians, all the better. And with former Laborer’s Union Local 223 President Marty Walsh – also known as mayor of Boston – entering the ring in DC against some of the GOP’s wealthiest ex-CEO senators, the potential for an entertaining throw down was there.

But the members of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP, like The Beatles movie) Committee who might have given Walsh the business didn’t drop the gloves. They wore them. The kid ones.

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Ranking minority member Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) made it clear before Walsh even spoke that his confirmation was assured, and the waltz was on. No questions about the fiasco of the new police commissioner’s surprise rap sheet. No mention of the failed Boston Calling case and the questions it tried to raise about strong-arm pro-labor tactics. Only a passing, oblique reference to the looming crisis of underfunded public-sector union benefits and pension obligations.

Labor secretary nominee Marty Walsh testifies at his confirmation hearing February 4, 2021 in Washington, DC (Photo by Graeme Jennings-Pool/Getty Images)

What passed for pressing the nominee was Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-Louisiana) raising his voice just above a murmur to tell Walsh “you’re talking past me on this” as the mayor talked past him about the Keystone Pipeline. And mask-mandate rejecting, hydroxychloroquine-promoting freshman Sen. Roger Marshall (R-Kansas) recycled a cut from the Trump campaign’s greatest hits by accusing Walsh of “defunding the police” by moving $12 million from their budget into mental health and trauma counseling. “My Boston Police Department officers have not lost one hour of overtime,” said Walsh.

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That was that. Walsh has a personal story – beats childhood cancer, son of a laborer becomes union chief, recovering alcoholic, sky-high approval ratings – that apparently renders any political differences moot. By all accounts, he made sure to share it personally with most of the committee members.

Or maybe it was partly relief that Joe Biden had sent them affable, center-left Marty Walsh to deal with instead of one of a slew of hardball labor activists or – even worse – Bernie Sanders.

At the end, Burr’s big question was: “Will you work with me?” Walsh answered correctly, and would be Secretary of Labor in time to ride on a float in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade if there was a parade this year.

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He had them at “hello.” As for the parade and float, who knows? Maybe Dorchester Day.

Jon Keller