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Trump’s labor secretary pick drops out after Republican revolt
This is a major loss for the Trump administration.
“While I won’t be serving in the administration, I fully support the president and his highly qualified team,” Puzder said in a statement to the Associated Press.
Puzder’s decision came hours after top Republicans in the Senate asked the White House to withdraw his nomination due to there not being enough votes for his approval. CNN reported that four and potentially as many as 12 Republican senators opposed Puzder’s confirmation.
Currently, the opposition of just two Senate Republicans is enough to kill any remaining Trump cabinet nominee since the Senate only needs a simple majority of those present to approve a cabinet confirmation.
With the confirmation of Jeff Sessions, the former Alabama senator, as attorney general, the Senate is left with 99 senators (51 Republicans, 46 Democrats, and two independents who traditionally caucus with Democrats). If all Democrats–including Sen. Joe Machin (D-W.Va.) and both independents oppose a Trump cabinet pick–they’ll only need the support of two Republicans to block a nominee. Vice President Mike Pence can only vote in the case of a tie. Since there are now an odd number of U.S. senators, a tie is impossible. Luther Strange has been selected to replace Sessions’ seat in the U.S. Senate, but it’s unclear as to when he will be sworn into office.
For the past 17 years, Puzder has served as the CEO of CKE Restaurants, which owns Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr. fast food chains. Puzder was opposed to former President Barack Obama‘s decision to raise the federal minimum wage and said that state proposals to increase the minimum wage to well past the federal minimum wage of $7.25 would lead to job loss (the Congressional Budget Office confirms that Puzder’s claim is correct).
Puzder served as economic advisor to Trump during the 2016 presidential election and no doubt shaped Trump’s position on the minimum wage, which, at $10 dollars an hour, is only slightly less than Obama’s proposal of $10.19 an hour and significantly less than the $12 dollars proposed by Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton on the campaign trail.
Puzder is also an unlikely ally to immigration rights; he’s spoken vocally about offering documented status to undocumented immigrants who work in the fast food industry. He also admitted to hiring an undocumented maid.
The embattled CEO has yet to even appear before the Senate. Puzder’s confirmation hearing before the Senate HELP Committee was originally scheduled in January but then re-scheduled to Feb. 2 and then re-scheduled again to Feb. 16.
Members of the Senate HELP Committee were all shown footage from a 1990 episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show that featured Lisa Fierstein, Puzder’s ex-wife, according to the Washington Post. Fierstein appeared in disguise on the show to discuss the multiple times she says that Puzder physically assaulted her in the 1980s. Fierstein has since retracted the allegations.
Winfrey turned over the tape to the Senate but refrained from releasing it to the public. The video made its to the public Wednesday, however, due to the fact that a woman who also appeared on the show gave a copy to Politico, according to Deadline.
Fierstein in the interview alleges that Puzder threatened her after she made the decision to divorce him.
“Remember that my ex-husband was a public figure. Everyone knew him and knew what he was doing—and once I made that public, he vowed revenge. And he said, ‘I will see you in the gutter. This will never be over. You will pay for this,” Fierstein said.
Puzder’s company is also in the middle of a massive class-action lawsuit that was filed in a California superior court last week, according to the Intercept. The complaint accuses CKE and its franchisees of colluding to “suppress the wages of restaurant-based managers and shift leaders” at Carl’s Jr restaurants in Los Angeles and around the world.
A representative for CKE noted in an email statement to the Daily Dot that CKE is not a franchisor and operates its restaurant activities through its subsidiaries, Carl’s Jr and Hardee’s, which were both united under CKE in the late ’90s. The statement notes that 94 percent of the Carl’s Jr/Hardee’s system is franchised.
Amrita Khalid is a technology and politics reporter who specializes in breaking down complex issues into practical, useful terms. A former contributor to CQ, a Congressional news and analysis site, she's currently a master's candidate in international relations at the University of Leeds.