Puzder Becomes First Cabinet-Appointee Casualty
Fast food exec withdraws nomination to head Labor Dept. in face of rising opposition
Pinched from the Left and Right and dogged by personal scandals, Andrew Puzder on Wednesday became President Donald Trump’s first Cabinet nomination to fall apart.
Puzder, the CEO of the parent company of the Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr. fast food chains, asked for a postponement of his confirmation hearing amid reports by CNN that as many as a dozen Senate Republicans had expressed concerns. The cable channel cited an anonymous source that Puzder had told the White House that he did not want to move forward.
“Our views on him have not changed. He’s been part of an industry that has exploited immigrant labor.”
With all 48 members of the Democratic caucus holding firm, it became a simple math equation — Puzder could afford to lose only two Republican votes. CNN reported that of the 12 wavering Republicans, four were hard “no” votes.
Puzder long has been a lightning rod of criticism among Democrats, who opposed his business practices, his relationship with labor, and his vociferous opposition to a higher minimum wage.
“Indeed, he has dripping disdain for people who work for a living,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) said on the Senate floor Wednesday. “This, alone, disqualifies him to be secretary of labor. But there’s more. In recent weeks, it has come out that Mr. Puzder employed an undocumented worker in his household for years. And he didn’t pay taxes on that employee. Yep, you heard that correctly.”
Warren also referred to a messy divorce and Puzder's ex-wife appearing on "The Oprah Winfrey Show" to discuss domestic abuse — allegations she since has withdrawn.
But Puzder had problems on his right flank, as well. Even before reports that the Puzder family had hired an illegal immigrant, some immigration hawks had expressed concern over the nomination. The Federation for American Immigration Reform in December pointed to Puzder's ties to an industry that thrives on low-wage immigrant labor and that has lobbied for greater access to foreign guest workers.
"Our views on him have not changed," FAIR spokesman Ira Mehlman told LifeZette on Wednesday. "He's been part of an industry that has exploited immigrant labor."
Although other agencies play a larger role in immigration enforcement, Mehlman pointed out that the Labor Department conducts workplace inspections and helps set labor policy. He acknowledged all Cabinet secretaries ultimately must put their own preferences behind the president they work for.
"But it is a two-way street," he said, arguing that the labor secretary is in a strong position to influence the White House on immigration-related policies.
Before Puzder threw in the towel, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) poked the nominee.
"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 said in a statement. "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."