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more trouble for andrew puzder, trump’s embattled nominee for secretary of labor

more trouble for andrew puzder, trump’s embattled nominee for secretary of labor News Article With The full text news and with Resource Link at the bottom of the text and you can View this News Article in the source page.



more trouble for andrew puzder, trump’s embattled nominee for secretary of labor

andrew puzder, president trump’s choice to serve as the next labor secretary, is facing growing resistance from republicans and conservative organizations concerned about his personal background and business record — possibly imperiling his nomination at a moment of crisis for the white house.

at least seven republican senators are withholding support for puzder, a restaurant executive and trump campaign supporter, saying that they want to see how the political novice fares at his confirmation hearing, scheduled for thursday morning.

additionally, a prominent conservative publication also announced its opposition to the pick on wednesday, saying that his support for more legal immigration is at odds with trump’s views on the subject.

puzder, the chief executive of cke restaurants, is set to appear before the senate health, education, labor and pensions committee for a long-delayed hearing amid a protracted review of his vast personal wealth, details of a rancorous divorce more than 25 years ago and revelations that his family once employed an undocumented immigrant as a housekeeper.

democrats on the committee opposed to puzder are vowing to show racy images of bikini-clad models eating hamburgers that appeared in television commercials run by his restaurant chains. his supporters are planning to eat biscuits from hardee’s — one of puzder’s properties — for breakfast while tracking the hearing from a makeshift war room.

protesters rally against labor secretary nominee andrew puzder outside of a hardee's restaurant in st. louis on feb. 13, 2017. (jeff curry/getty images)

ahead of the hearing, republicans are showing a notable level of skepticism about one of trump’s last cabinet nominees — and certainly the most imperiled so far — to proceed through senate confirmation.

“he’s got an awful lot of people who speak highly of him, but all these nominees have a process that they have to go through where they’ve got to respond to the questions people have on their backgrounds and their records and i want to have that opportunity,” said sen. john thune (r-s.d.), the third-ranking senate republican who is among those withholding support.

while republicans may have questions about puzder’s personal employment practices, democrats plan to question him aggressively about long-since recanted allegations that he assaulted his ex-wife, his past criticism of minimum wage laws, and personnel practices as well as advertising campaigns at his restaurant chains that women’s groups consider sexist.

“i expect straightforward and clear answers,” sen. patty murray (d-wash.), the top democrat on the committee, said on wednesday as she met with representatives from women’s organizations opposed to puzder.

as a restaurant executive, puzder has spent much of his career speaking out against wage and labor regulations. the former commercial trial lawyer has been a staunch opponent of rules finalized by the labor department last year — which have since been put on hold — that would have expanded the number of people eligible for overtime pay. he has also been critical of substantially increasing the minimum wage, arguing that it could push companies to cut jobs and encourage businesses to invest more money into automation.

if confirmed, puzder would be the first labor secretary since the reagan era to take the job without some public service experience. he made a minor foray into politics in 2011, when he served as an economic adviser and spokesman for republican presidential candidate mitt romney, who recently endorsed puzder’s nomination.

senate majority leader mitch mcconnell (r-ky.) met with labor secretary-designate andy puzder in his office at the u.s. capitol on jan. 5, 2017. (manuel balce ceneta/ap)

in 2016, puzder was an avid trump supporter. in addition to serving as an economic adviser to his campaign, he and his wife, deanna, contributed a total of $332,000 to trump’s campaign, joint fundraising committees and to the republican national committee, according to the federal election commission.

despite public resistance to puzder, white house officials and top republican aides insisted that the confirmation hearing will proceed as scheduled and that puzder will be confirmed.

“i’m a strong supporter of andy puzder. i think he’s uniquely qualified for this job,” senate majority leader mitch mcconnell (r-ky.) said tuesday. “we hope we’ll be able to get his hearing this week and deal with him when we get back” after next week’s congressional recess.

it’s often customary for senators not to weigh in on a nominee publicly until after a confirmation hearing, but republicans have been mostly in lock-step to support trump’s top cabinet nominees. only one other pick — rex tillerson to serve as secretary of state — drew as much public wavering among republicans before his hearing, when five gop senators expressed doubts. ultimately, all of them voted for tillerson.

in addition to thune, sens. rob portman (ohio), thom tillis (n.c.), susan collins (maine), johnny isakson (ga.), lisa murkowski (alaska) and tim scott (s.c.) have said this week that they are on the fence regarding puzder. collins, isakson, murkowski and scott sit on the help committee while the others do not — signaling that the concerns with puzder are widespread.

thune’s hesitancy is notable because his leadership role makes him responsible for helping build support for big-ticket gop causes. but he told reporters on wednesday that he wants to know more about why puzder employed an undocumented housekeeper and how he paid the worker. tillis cited the same concerns.

puzder revealed to a senate committee this month that he was unaware of the maid’s immigration status when he hired her. the worker was terminated and puzder later paid federal and state back taxes.

collins and murkowski also voted against betsy devos, trump’s choice for education secretary, forcing vice president pence to become the first ever to cast a tie-breaking confirmation vote. both senators are among several who have seen footage of a 1990 “oprah winfrey show” episode in which puzder’s ex-wife appeared in disguise to describe allegations of domestic violence.

the help committee requested that winfrey’s production company provide copies of the episode for senators to review. puzder has always denied the allegations and his ex-wife, lisa fierstein, recanted the accusations in a letter to senators last month.

aides said portman was still reviewing puzder’s history and didn’t want to weigh in yet, but the senator represents a state where labor unions are building support against the nomination. portman won reelection last year with the endorsement of several labor unions, a rare feat these days for a republican.

on wednesday, puzder’s nomination was dealt another blow when the national review, a widely-read publication in conservative circles, announced its opposition to his nomination. the publication cited puzder’s past support for increased levels of legal immigration for high-skilled or seasonal workers — a position at odds with trump’s own calls for limited legal immigration.

“the case for his confirmation has diminished to the point of disappearing,” the publication wrote in its editorial. “not only is puzder a representative of the worst reflex of corporate america on one of trump’s signature issues, he is now significantly weakened. “

the magazine’s editors acknowledged “the impulse of the white house and the senate to try to bulldog through rather than to give obstructionist democrats a scalp.” but they added, “the country, and the administration, can weather a re-do on this one.”

amid that opposition, puzder’s allies are preparing for an aggressive campaign to boost his chances. restaurant groups especially are intensifying attempts to persuade skeptical senators.

the national restaurant association arranged for 10 senators, including isakson and scott, to meet on wednesday with a group of cke employees who the association says enjoy working for puzder’s restaurants.

“we need to make sure that our next secretary of labor understands how to create jobs, understands how to get businesses and the government working together. and you’ve got that in andy puzder,” said leslie shedd, a spokeswoman for the restaurant group.

on thursday, the association plans to host a “war room” with other industry groups, including the national retail federation and the international franchise association, that will be able to respond quickly to issues raised during the hearing.

as they do so, the group will be munching on those hardee’s biscuits, delivered from one of the chain’s restaurants in glen burnie, md.