Fast food CEO Andrew Puzder has withdrawn from consideration as secretary of labor after several Republican senators pulled their support today.
Puzder has been plagued by controversies, including claims he mistreated his own workers and employed an undocumented worker for several years. He is CEO of CKE Restaurants, parent company of Hardee's and Carl’s Jr.
The National Review, a leading conservative publication, urged a No vote on Puzder today, citing the businessman’s support for more legal immigration. Curtailing immigration is a centerpiece of President Donald J. Trump’s agenda.
In addition, Politico aired footage from a 1990 episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show, in which Puzder's ex-wife claimed Puzder abused her. She later retracted her allegations of abuse.
"While I won't be serving in the administration, I fully support the president and his highly qualified team," Puzder said in his statement this afternoon.
The next DOL secretary will play a big role in crafting the fiduciary rule, as well as other regulations.
Puzder’s hearing was scheduled for 10 a.m. Thursday before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. His appearance had been postponed three times.
The fiduciary rule is set to begin taking effect April 10. With time running out, Trump ordered the DOL to seek to delay the rule while studying its impact on small savers.
The DOL filed a notice to seek a delay under the signature of Interim Secretary Edward Hugler. Getting a secretary in place will only help the DOL in developing a coordinated overall strategy on the rule.
With Puzder's nomination withdrawn, it will further delay strategy to overhaul the fiduciary rule.
While he’s been silent on the DOL rule, Puzder was sharply critical of the DOL overtime rule last year.
“Things would be much better across our economy if government regulators would back off,” he wrote in his blog.
Opposition to Puzder from the Left been intense for weeks, especially from labor groups.
This week, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., sent Puzder a blistering 28-page letter that included 83 questions.
"My staff's review of your 16-year tenure as CEO of CKE Restaurants, Inc., the parent company of Hardee's and Carl's Jr., reveals that you've made your fortune by squeezing the very workers you'd be charged with protecting as Labor Secretary out of wages and benefits," Warren wrote. "Your company's record of prolific labor law abuses and discrimination suits - the most of any major burger chain - gives me great pause given that as Labor Secretary you'd be charged with enforcing these very laws.”
Prior to nominating Puzder, Trump considered several other candidates for the labor post. They include:
• Lou Barletta: The Pennsylvania congressman was an early Trump supporter who made a name for himself with anti-illegal immigrant policies as a mayor of a small city in Pennsylvania. He is also a member of the House Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor and Pensions.
• Peter Kirsanow: He is an attorney who serves on the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and was also on the National Labor Relations Board from 2006 to 2008. Bloomberg BNA reported that Kirsanow seemed pretty impressed with Trump after a “surprise” Sunday meeting. The article mentions that Kirsanow said he was a moderate on the overtime rule and did not address the fiduciary regulation.
• John Kline: The Minnesota congressman who serves as chairman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee is retiring at the end of the year. Roll Call names him as a possibility, but he does not appear on many lists.
• Victoria Lipnic: Her name was one of the first to come up and is most mentioned. Lipnic has been a Republican commissioner on the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) since 2010. Before then she was the assistant secretary of labor under George W. Bush. The Atlantic reported that Lipnic “represents a more moderate choice for labor secretary. … Her voting record as an EEOC commissioner sometimes crosses party lines, but is largely indicative of a preference for less regulation.”
• Scott Walker: The governor of Wisconsin ran briefly for president but might be better known for taking away public-sector unions’ collective-bargaining rights. Some have argued that this move drained Democratic financial and political power in one of the key swing states that Trump won. Walker's anti-union sentiments are well-known, but he hasn’t said much on the department’s regulations.
InsuranceNewsNet Senior Editor John Hilton has covered business and other beats in more than 20 years of daily journalism. John may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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