February 15, 2017; Washington Post
It appears that the new president’s nominations tend to follow a kind of pattern, in that the candidates picked often espouse views and have engaged in behaviors antithetical to the purposes of the bodies they will lead. In some cases, at least, this is backfiring.
Yesterday, fast food CEO Andrew Puzder officially withdrew as Trump’s nominee for Labor Secretary. His confirmation appeared to be in some jeopardy on Tuesday night after GOP leaders expressed concern to the White House about the multiple barriers he was facing. Andrew Finnegan writes for the New Yorker that:
As the chief executive officer of CKE Restaurants, the parent company of the Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s burger chains, Puzder has been a fierce opponent of significant raises to the minimum wage, new rules for overtime, paid sick leave, unions, workplace regulations, and nearly all work-related benefits and rights—the entire mission, basically, of the Department of Labor. The fast-food industry is not known as a respecter of labor laws. And yet Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s, in a recent study by the news site Capital & Main, together ranked first among major U.S. burger chains in the rate of federal employment-discrimination lawsuits brought against them per billion dollars in sales. Trump, announcing Puzder’s nomination, in December, said that his “extensive record fighting for workers makes him the ideal candidate to lead the Department of Labor.” It was hard to tell if Trump was bleakly joking or simply working from an invisible set of alternative facts.
There was more. Puzder’s company, like Trump’s companies, does not always practice what Trump preaches when it comes to keeping jobs in the United States. It has outsourced its information-technology division to the Philippines. More embarrassingly for Trump, protesters in at least two dozen cities have been rallying this week, carrying signs with Puzder’s face and the epithets “Wage Thief” and “Tax Cheat.” The Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division has conducted ninety-four investigations of Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s since 2004, and found more than a thousand violations, including paying below minimum wage, withholding pay, altering time cards, and not paying overtime.
In addition to concerns about his business practices, two other issues plagued his confirmation. Reports surfaced about his employing (and not paying taxes for) an undocumented immigrant as his housekeeper; his later paying the required taxes didn’t help matters. Also, Puzder’s contentious 1988 divorce included allegations of spousal abuse, since recanted, from his ex-wife. However, at the time, she appeared on Oprah in disguise to talk about domestic violence. One can only imagine the effect of playing that video at a confirmation hearing.
Puzder’s withdrawal, of course, followed Michael Flynn’s hasty departure as National Security Advisor and his subsequent loss of security clearance for apparently violating the most basic of protocols around national security.
And yesterday, Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) announced that she will vote against the confirmation of Scott Pruitt, Trump’s nominee for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) because “[he] and I have fundamentally different views of the role and mission” of the agency.
“That does not mean that I agree with every regulatory action that EPA has taken,” Collins said in a statement. “At times, the Agency has been difficult to work with and unresponsive to bipartisan congressional concerns. But the EPA plays a vital role in implementing and enforcing landmark laws that protect not only our environment but also public health.”
She said that Pruitt, as Oklahoma’s attorney general, filed any number of lawsuits against the EPA “on numerous issues that are of great importance to the state of Maine.”
“His actions leave me with considerable doubts about whether his vision for the EPA is consistent with the Agency’s critical mission to protect human health and the environment,” Collins wrote.
Fred Krupp, head of the Environmental Defense Fund, commented, “Senator Collins has made a courageous decision that puts the health and safety of Maine’s citizens above politics and policy.” On the other hand, at last count, Pruitt can count on the vote of one Democrat—Sen. Joe Manchin III of West Virginia—so the end result of Collins’s courage may simply be modeling good governance over partisanship.
There is, of course, little love lost between Trump and the EPA. “For too long, the Environmental Protection Agency has spent taxpayer dollars on an out-of-control anti-energy agenda that has destroyed millions of jobs, while also undermining our incredible farmers and many other businesses and industries at every turn,” Trump said when he nominated Pruitt.
The Hill reports that the administration is counting on Pruitt’s confirmation because the president plans to sign executive orders on EPA and its climate change work there that will “suck the air out of the room.”—Ruth McCambridge