Two months ago, nearly to the day, I wrote about Andrew Puzder’s nomination as Secretary of Labor in the Trump administration. After having his confirmation hearings before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee pushed back four times, and with hearings finally set for today, Puzder withdrew from consideration yesterday afternoon.
While supporters of the nomination touted Puzder’s business record as the owner of CKE Restaurants as a sign of what works and doesn’t work for management from a regulatory perspective, Puzder faced growing criticism in a number of areas, including:
- Previously hiring an undocumented housekeeper, an issue that sank Bill Clinton’s first two nominees for Attorney General in 1993;
- A recording of a speech he gave referring to his employees as “the best of the worst”;
- Pushing for increased automation of the workforce by using robots to replace employees because, in his words, “[t]hey’re always polite, they always upsell, they never take a vacation, they never show up late, there’s never a slip-and-fall, or an age, sex or race discrimination case”;
- Resistance from conservatives opposed to his stance in support of comprehensive immigration reform; and, most recently,
- The release of video footage from Puzder’s ex-wife on a 1990 episode of “The Oprah Winfrey Show” alleging that Puzder had domestically abused her (though, in fairness, these allegations were retracted eight months later as part of the couple’s child custody agreement) .
In addition to widespread pushback on the left, at least four GOP members of the HELP Committee (Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Tim Scott (R-SC), and Johnny Isakson (R-GA)) expressed reservations about the pick. A number of other GOP senators such as John Thune (R-SD), Rob Portman (R-OH), and Thom Tillis (R-NC) also indicated their skepticism of the nominee, ultimately leading Puzder to do the equivalent of resigning rather than being voted down later.
As of this writing, there is no consensus replacement that has been identified by President Trump. Victoria Lipnic, who was rumored to be in the running during the transition period, is likely out of the running, having already been named as Acting Chair of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, whose campaign against the state’s public sector unions appears to align with administration objectives, has gone on the record as having no interest in the position.
For now, the ball is back in the President’s court. In the meantime, the administration has been given until March 5 to file its brief in the appeal on the Department of Labor’s 2016 proposed overtime rule that was struck down by the Eastern District of Texas.