Puzder with­draws nom­i­na­tion to be Trump’s la­bor sec­re­tary

The Trentonian (Trenton, NJ) - - BUSINESS - By Lau­rie Kellman and Cather­ine Lucey

WASH­ING­TON >> Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s nom­i­nee for la­bor sec­re­tary abruptly with­drew his nom­i­na­tion Wed­nes­day af­ter Se­nate Repub­li­cans balked at sup­port­ing him, in part over taxes he be­lat­edly paid on a for­mer house­keeper not au­tho­rized to work in the United States.

Fast-food ex­ec­u­tive An­drew Puzder is­sued a short state­ment aban­don­ing the ef­fort, say­ing he was “hon­ored to have been con­sid­ered by Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump to lead the Depart­ment of La­bor.”

White House spokesman Sean Spicer said he had no in­for­ma­tion on any pos­si­ble re­place­ment. Puzder’s nom­i­na­tion be­came part of a streak of con­tentious con­fir­ma­tion bat­tles and hap­haz­ard White House ac­tions, in­clud­ing a botched roll out of Trump’s ex­ec­u­tive or­der on refugees and the ouster of na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser Michael Flynn.

Sen. La­mar Alexan­der, who would have chaired Puzder’s con­fir­ma­tion­hear­ing Thurs­day, is­sued a terse state­ment say­ing the nom­i­nee would have made an “ex­cel­lent” la­bor sec­re­tary, but “I re­spect his de­ci­sion” to quit pur­su­ing the post. Puzder spokesman Ge­orge Thomp­son said his boss was a vic­tim of “an un­prece­dented smear cam­paign.”

What trou­bled ma­jor­ity Repub­li­cans most of all was Puzder’s ac­knowl­edge­ment that he had not paid taxes on the house­keeper un­til af­ter Trump nom­i­nated him to the Cabi­net post Dec .9— five years af­ter he had fired the worker.

Thomp­son said in an e-mail that Puzder in­formed the White House of the house­keeper mat­ter “af­ter the nom­i­na­tion.” Peo­ple in­ter­viewed dur­ing the tran­si­tion pe­riod said they were not asked by Trump’s team to pro­vide vet­ting in­for­ma­tion, rais­ing ques­tions about the level of scru­tiny.

Ul­ti­mately, Repub­li­cans made it clear that Puzder did not have the votes for con­fir­ma­tion.

Democrats and their al­lies wel­comed Puzder’s with­drawal, say­ing his cor­po­rate back­ground and op­po­si­tion to such pro­pos­als as a big hike in the min­i­mum wage made him an un­fit ad­vo­cate for Amer­i­can work­ers at the top of an agency charged with en­forc­ing pro­tec­tions.

They had al­ready made it clear that Puzder’s state­ments about women and his own work­ers would be ma­jor is­sues at his con­fir­ma­tion hear­ing.

Puzder was quoted in En­tre­pre­neur mag­a­zine in 2015 as say­ing, “I like beau­ti­ful women eat­ing burg­ers in biki­nis.” He said the racy com­mer­cials for Carl’s Jr., one of his com­pa­nies, were “very Amer­i­can.”

Democrats also said Puzder had dis­par­aged work­ers at his restau­rants by call­ing them “the best of the worst.” He was quoted by Busi­ness In­sider as say­ing he wanted to try ro­bots at his restau­rants, be­cause “They’re al­ways po­lite, they al­ways up sell, 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.”

A coali­tion led by the pro-la­bor Na­tional Em­ploy­ment Law Project and Jobs With Jus­tice groups said Puzder’s with­drawal rep­re­sents the “first vic­tory of the re­sis­tance against Pres­i­dent Trump.”

“Work­ers and fam­i­lies across the coun­try spoke up loud and clear that they want a true cham­pion for all work­ers in the La­bor Depart­ment,” said Sen. Patty Mur­ray, the rank­ing Demo­crat on the panel that was to han­dle the hear­ing.

CAROLYN KASTER — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS FILE

In this file photo, then-Pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump walks La­bor Sec­re­tary-des­ig­nate Andy Puzder from Trump Na­tional Golf Club Bed­min­ster club­house in Bed­min­ster, N.J. Puzder abruptly with­drew his nom­i­na­tion Wed­nes­day af­ter Se­nate Repub­li­cans balked at sup­port­ing him, in part over taxes he be­lat­edly paid on a for­mer house­keeper not au­tho­rized to work in the United States.

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