Puzder withdraws nomination for Labor secretary
Andy Puzder on Wednesday withdrew his nomination to become President Trump’s secretary of Labor after it became apparent that he would not have enough Republican support to be confirmed.
The dramatic withdrawal came on the eve of Puzder’s confirmation hearing and at the urging of Senate Republican leaders who warned that anywhere from four to 12 of their members could defect in a confirmation vote, according to CNN.
“After careful consideration and discussions with my family, I am withdrawing my nomination for Secretary of Labor,” Puzder said in a statement. “I am honored to have been considered by President Donald Trump to lead the Department of Labor and put America’s workers and businesses back on a path of sustainable prosperity.”
“While I won’t be serving in the administration, I fully support the president and his highly qualified team,” he added.
Puzder is President Trump’s first Cabinet nominee to withdraw, giving Democrats their first scalp after weeks of determined opposition.
Democrats and labor unions had assailed Puzder for his record as CEO of the fast-food conglomerate CKE Restaurants, which owns the burger chains Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr.
“The fact that someone so anti-labor was even nominated shows how far President Trump is from where he campaigned,” said Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.).
“If President Trump is remotely serious about standing up for workers, he will nominate someone for Labor Secretary that champions workers’ rights rather than suppresses them.”
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) — who blasted Puzder from the Senate floor — said that Puzder should “get out of the kitchen” if he couldn’t withstand congressional scrutiny.
Puzder’s confirmation hearing before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee — a hearing that had been delayed several times — appeared at risk of becoming a spectacle.
For starters, Puzder was certain to face tough questions about why he had for years employed an undocumented immigrant as a housekeeper — the type of offense that has doomed Cabinet nominees in the past.
Democrats were also likely to grill Puzder about accusations from his ex-wife, Lisa Fierstein, that he physically abused her.
Fierstein has since retracted those accusations, saying they were motivated by the divorce battle. But she appeared in disguise on “Oprah” to talk about the alleged abuse in March 1990, something she now calls a lapse in judgment.
Senators on the Labor Committee had viewed that video ahead of the hearing, according to Politico.
In perhaps the final straw for Puzder, his nomination was facing intense opposition from the right, with conservatives calling his selection a betrayal of Trump’s promise to get tough on immigration.
“Puzder himself has been a reliable font of clichés in favor of higher levels of legal immigration,” the conservative National Review wrote Wednesday.
“He has suggested that ‘the fact is that there are jobs in this country that U.S. citizens, for whatever reason, are reluctant or unwilling to perform’ — a cliché that ignores the possibility of raising wages to attract citizens — and as recently as 2015 encouraged reviving the Gang of Eight approach to immigration,” the magazine wrote.
Sen. Tim Scott (S.C.) — who was one of four Senate Republicans known to be undecided on the nomination — said that he had developed “serious concerns” about Puzder’s hiring of an undocumented immigrant.
“Over the past few days, I shared those concerns with Senate leadership and Chairman [Lamar] Alexander,” he said in a statement.
Alexander (R-Tenn.) had backed Puzder and reiterated his support on Wednesday, saying he would have made an excellent Labor secretary.
“He understands the difficulties American workers face in a rapidly changing workforce, and I look forward to continuing to hear his insights,” Alexander said.
Puzder’s withdrawal was yet another setback in a difficult week for the White House, coming just two days after Michael Flynn resigned as national security adviser under a cloud of accusations about his conversations with Russia’s ambassador to the U.S.
White House press secretary Sean Spicer declined to discuss whether Trump has another candidate for Labor secretary in mind.
When asked if the president is disappointed that both Flynn and Puzder are out, Spicer blamed Democrats for slow-walking the nominees.
“Where’s the role of Senate Democrats in this? We are now entering a point where we have slow-walked senior officials that can help make the government run as a whole,” he said.
“So when you tell me that you have asked Chuck Schumer that, I’d be glad to answer the question. But at some point there is no focus on these guys having a double standard [from] what they had for Obama nominees.”
Democrats, meanwhile, were eager to celebrate their victory after failing to stop several of Trump’s other nominees, including Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.
In a call with reporters Wednesday, Tom Perez, a former Labor secretary under President Obama who is now running for chairman of the Democratic National Committee, called the news of Puzder’s withdrawal just another example of chaos in the Trump administration.
“Through this appointment he’s shown he was trying to make it harder for workers to get ahead and stay ahead,” he said of Trump.
Perez said Puzder, like Flynn, was not only incompetent, but also dangerous.
“If I had half the transgressions of Andy Puzder, I never would have gotten through,” he said.
Jordan Fabian and Jordain Carney contributed.