Sec. of Labor Nominee, Andrew Puzder, Drops Out Amid Scandal And Lack of Republican Senate Support
Andrew Puzder, CEO of CKE Restaurants was due to begin hearings on Thursday as Trump nominee for secretary of Labor, but has just withdrawn himself from consideration after top Republicans advised the White House that he would not likely be confirmed, according to CNN.
Rumors have been in circulation that Puzder would likely drop out throughout the day on Wednesday. CBS correspondent Major Garrett first hinted that Puzder would withdraw after numerous Senate Republicans expressed their skepticism at his appointment.
“News: Source very close to Labor Secretary nominee Andy Puzder tells me he expects Puzder to withdraw. ‘He’s very tired of the abuse.'”
News: Source very close to Labor Secretary nominee Andy Puzder tells me he expects Puzder to withdraw. "He's very tired of the abuse."
— Major Garrett (@MajorCBS) February 15, 2017
POLITICO had just reported that Puzder was likely to drop out after GOP senators advised the White House that Puzder was unlikely to get the support of enough Republican senators to confirm his nomination.
In a surprise break with the Trump administration, top Senate Republicans were advocating the removal of the embattled nominee for secretary of Labor, Andrew Puzder.
According to CNN, at least four Senate Republicans were planning to vote no, and the number may run up to as many as 12 who would vote against Puzder.
Puzder has faced fierce criticism from both the Democratic party and organized labor because of allegations that the CEO of CKE Restaurants has fallen under attack for violating labor laws as well as personal allegations of domestic abuse.
Senate Democratic Leader, Chuck Schumer issued a statement Wednesday in opposition to Puzder’s appointment:
“No matter how you cut it, there is no worse pick for Labor Secretary than Andrew Puzder, and I’m encouraged my Republican colleagues are starting to agree. He does not belong anywhere near the Labor Department, let alone at the head of it. Puzder’s disdain for the American worker, the very people he would be responsible for protecting, is second to none.”
The Washington Post reported that at least seven Republican Senators would not support Puzder, concerned that revelations regarding his personal and business life would bring more scandal to a Republican White House that has seen its share in less than four weeks of the Trump administration.
Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, is the third ranking Republican in the Senate, and was withholding support pending his hearing before the Senate’s Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee (HELP).
“He’s got an awful lot of people who speak highly of him, but all these nominees have a process that they have to go through where they’ve got to respond to the questions people have on their backgrounds and their records, and I want to have that opportunity.”
Puzder has shown contempt for progressive strides in protective labor laws. The CEO of CKE, which owns the Carl’s Jr. and Hardees fast food chains, has opposed new laws redefining and expanding the number of workers eligible for overtime pay. Puzder has also criticized raising the minimum wage, claiming it would encourage more companies to invest in automation.
Puzder and his wife contributed $332,000 to Trump’s bid for the presidency in 2016, and White House officials were firmly behind his nomination. Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell was in favor of Puzder’s nomination, but McConnell has been known to buy-in — lock, stock, and barrel — on all of Trump’s nominations, including his wife, Elaine Chao, who was nominated and confirmed as Trump’s transportation secretary.
Although most senators will not speak out one way or another until a Cabinet nominee has had their confirmation hearing, several Republicans in the Senate had already announced that they’re not convinced. Along with Thune, Rob Portman of Ohio, Thom Tillis of North Carolina, Susan Collins of Maine, Johnny Isakson of Georgia, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, and Tim Scott of South Carolina are all Republicans that had expressed their doubts.
Both Thune and Tills said they wanted to know more about accusations that Puzder employed an undocumented worker and paid her under the table.
Collins and Murkowski are among several senators who have seen a 1990 episode of “The Oprah Winfrey Show” in which Puzder’s ex-wife appeared and described domestic abuse and violence. Puzder denies the allegations, and his ex-wife, Lisa Fierstein, recanted on the accusations last month. But the HELP committee has requested a copy of the episode from Winfrey’s production company for review, according to The Washington Post.
POLITICO has also obtained a copy of the episode, where Puzder’s wife appears anonymously as “Ann” in disguise.
Portman won re-election last year partly in thanks to the endorsement of several labor unions, and was unwilling to support Puzder without a full review of the CEO’s history of dismissing the needs of labor unions.
Puzder is also the subject of a class-action suit filed last week in California, claiming the CEO ran an illegal wage-fixing scheme, as reported in the The Intercept. According to the lawsuit, Puzder colluded with independent franchise owners to prevent managers from transferring between locations. The lawsuit claims that Puzder also violated federal law under the Sherman Antitrust Act, resulting in an illegal restraint of trade.
In January, nearly three dozen lawsuits in 10 states were filed against Puzder’s franchise restaurants. The Fight For $15 movement has been scheduling protests against his nomination, and an internal petition was circulating in the Department of Labor itself, opposing Puzder’s nomination. One Department of Labor staffer told Fast Company that the petition originated with the hundreds of lawyers in the Department, working to enforce labor laws under the Office of the Solicitor.