(Recasts with impact to Trump administration; adds comments,
By Sarah N. Lynch
WASHINGTON Feb 15 In a blow to President Donald
Trump as he tries to assemble his administration, his nominee
for labor secretary, Andrew Puzder, withdrew his name from
consideration on Wednesday amid concerns that he could not
garner enough Senate votes to be confirmed.
Puzder's decision to withdraw is yet another setback this
week for a White House still grappling with fallout from Monday
night's abrupt resignation of national security adviser Michael
Flynn, after less than a month in the job.
Puzder, the chief executive officer of CKE Restaurants Inc,
which franchises fast-food chains including Hardee's and Carl's
Jr, has been at the center of a swirl of controversies,
complaints and potential conflicts.
He admitted earlier this month that he and his wife had
employed an undocumented person as a housekeeper. He faced a
flurry of complaints and legal cases brought in recent weeks and
months by workers against his business and its franchises. Most
recently, a decades-old Ophrah Winfrey tape raising allegations
of domestic abuse by his ex-wife resurfaced, though those
allegations had been withdrawn.
“After careful consideration and discussions with my family,
I am withdrawing my nomination for Secretary of Labor," Puzder
said in a statement.
Puzder's withdrawal came one day before his scheduled
At least seven Republican senators, including Susan Collins
of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, declined to publicly back
Puzder in advance of the confirmation hearing.
For weeks now, Republican senators have been telling Senator
John Cornyn, the second-highest ranking Republican, that they
believed some of their colleagues would join Collins and
Murkowski in opposing Puzder, according to a senior Senate
The Labor Department oversees compliance with federal laws
that mandate safe working conditions, a minimum hourly wage,
overtime wages and prohibit employment discrimination.
As labor secretary, Puzder would have shaped the
department’s approach to these issues, including whether to
defend an Obama administration rule expanding overtime pay to
millions of workers that has been challenged in the courts.
Earlier this month, Puzder admitted he and his wife had
employed an undocumented person as a housekeeper and had to pay
back taxes as a result.
Workers at some of CKE's restaurants have filed claims in
recent weeks alleging they were victims of wage theft or victims
of sexual harassment in the workplace.
Another possible problem were allegations dating back to
1986 that Puzder had physically abused his now ex-wife, Lisa
Henning, now known as Lisa Fierstein.
Fierstein filed for divorce in 1987 and later retracted her
allegations, but not before appearing anonymously as a victim of
domestic abuse on "The Oprah Winfrey Show."
Last week, the OWN Network released a copy of that tape to
the Senate committee so both Democratic and Republican members
could view it, according to an aide.
Democrats on Wednesday cheered over the news of Puzder's
"From the start, it’s been clear that Puzder is uniquely
unqualified to serve as secretary of labor," said Patty Murray,
the ranking member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Health,
Education, Labor and Pensions.
(Additional reporting by Timothy Ahmann, Richard Cowan, Robert
Iafolla and Amanda Becker; Editing by Linda Stern and Leslie