WASHINGTON — What was shaping up to be an especially heated nomination battle in a season of party-line splits on cabinet nominees is over a day before President Trump’s pick for Labor secretary was supposed to appear before senators.
CKE Restaurants CEO Andrew Puzder was scheduled to testify in his confirmation hearing at the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee on Thursday.
Puzder tweeted today, “I am withdrawing my nomination for Secretary of Labor. I’m honored to have been considered and am grateful to all who have supported me.”
His previous tweet was on Jan. 16: “I am looking forward to my hearing.”
HELP Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) said Puzder “has the experience and ability to make an excellent Labor secretary, but I respect his decision.”
“He understands the difficulties American workers face in a rapidly changing workforce and I look forward to continuing to hear his insights,” Alexander added.
The writing on the wall for Puzder before he even made his case to Congress came in the form of defections within the GOP. At least four Republican senators — Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Tim Scott of South Carolina and Johnny Isakson of Georgia — had indicated to leadership they were withholding support, something untenable for the 52-48 GOP majority. And more GOPs were reportedly considering “no” votes.
In preparation for the hearing, senators had been watching a 1990 Oprah Winfrey Show episode in which Puzder’s ex-wife claimed domestic abuse, charges later recanted in a child custody agreement.
“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,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said earlier in the day. “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,” he added. “President Trump should immediately withdraw this nomination and nominate a champion of worker’s rights.”
By the time the news broke in the late afternoon, Schumer was declaring “a victory for the American worker.”
“Puzder should never have even been nominated to lead the Labor Department and Senate Republicans clearly recognized this too,” he said.
The AFL-CIO declared the withdrawal “a reminder of the collective power of working people and a clear message to President Trump that it’s time to change course completely, not double down.”
“Working people rejected Puzder because he routinely violated labor law, disrespected workers, opposed a living wage and used his position of authority to enrich himself at the expense of working people,” AFL-CIO boss Richard Trumka said. “We rallied in towns and cities across the country, flooded Senate offices with calls and e-mails and highlighted Puzder’s terrible track record.”
Puzder further said in a statement this afternoon that he was “honored to have been considered” by Trump to “put America’s workers and businesses back on a path to sustainable prosperity.”
“I also thank my family and my many supporters — employees, businesses, friends and people who have voiced their praise and hopeful optimism for the policies and new thinking I would have brought to America as secretary of Labor,” Puzder added. “While I won’t be serving in the administration, I fully support the president and his highly qualified team.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) had brushed off the controversy around Puzder and resulting GOP defections to reporters on Tuesday, calling the Carl’s Jr. and Hardees boss “a great, great choice.”
“It’s hard to tell who’s controversial and who isn’t since they’re throwing up opposition to everyone, including holding hostage those that they claim were not controversial,” McConnell said of Dem opposition. “I’m a strong supporter of Andy Puzder. I think he’s uniquely qualified for this job.”