The first failed Trump Cabinet nomination? – Washington Post (blog)

It’s often the case that a failed Cabinet nomination is not a high-profile target for the opposition but a less prominent nominee whose problems were not fully appreciated. In the case of the Trump administration, Rex Tillerson, Tom Price and Betsy DeVos made it through the gantlet, but Andrew Puzder, President Trump’s labor secretary nominee, may not. There may be as many as six GOP holdouts — Sens. Rob Portman (Ohio), John Thune (S.D.), Susan Collins (Maine), Johnny Isakson (Ga.), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) and Tim Scott (S.C.) — who are raising a red flag. Politico now reports: “Senior Republican senators are advising the White House to withdraw Andy Puzder’s nomination to be secretary of labor, saying he lacks the votes to be confirmed, sources familiar with the matter said Wednesday.”

More troublesome for the White House is the lack of enthusiasm for Puzder on the right. National Review’s editors have actually come out against him — putting them on the same page as Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Democratic interest groups, albeit for different reasons. National Review complains about his support for legal immigration (revealing that all protestations to the contrary, the anti-immigration right has always been about more than just illegal immigration). In their eyes, he just is not worth fighting for:

The unflattering revelations have included that Pudzer employed an undocumented housekeeper for several years and failed to pay related taxes. His hearings have been repeatedly delayed as the White House tries to rally support, and recent reports suggest that a handful of Republican senators are still unconvinced.  The case for his confirmation has diminished to the point of disappearing. 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. We understand the impulse of the White House and the Senate to try to bulldog through rather than to give obstructionist Democrats a scalp. Yet, all the major Trump nominees have won their confirmation battles. The country, and the administration, can weather a re-do on this one.

We differ strongly with NR’s unproven and illogical contention that immigration is behind “intensification of the labor-force exodus, wage stagnation, and social fragmentation” (!), which smacks of the same nonsense economic theory that would have us believe the North American Free Trade Agreement cost us millions of jobs. Nevertheless, for political purposes, the right’s lack of enthusiasm — coupled with the left’s ideological opposition to Puzder — suggests that he may not make it.

From Democrats come a slew of complaints:

  • He opposed regulations that protect workers.
  • He favored both legal immigration of low-skill workers and being allowed to hire undocumented workers.
  • He opposed laws that require firms to pay overtime and laws that ensure companies aren’t misclassifying workers as salaried to avoid paying overtime.
  • CKE Restaurants has reportedly replaced full-time workers with part-timers to avoid paying for health insurance.
  • He opposed minimum wage laws.
  • He sent CKE Restaurant lobbyists to Washington to argue against a proposed law that would have made it easier for workers to unionize.

Then there are divorce documents obtained by Oprah Winfrey (only in the Trump administration!), which have revived old allegations about domestic abuse from his ex-wife.

All of this comes at a troubling time for the White House, which is in free fall over the Russia scandal. If the perception builds that the White House is consumed by leaks, investigations and dysfunction, Puzder will be the least of President Trump’s problems. His agenda and scores of other nominees below Cabinet level may be at risk.

Aside from the relatively slow pace of Cabinet secretary confirmations, it cannot be stressed enough how slow the administration has been in even announcing deputies and lower-level appointments. (By contrast the Obama team proposed a raft of deputies during the transition and another slate in February.) Trump’s Cabinet nominees, at a time when they would like be up and running with a raft of legislative initiatives, must largely rely on holdovers from the Obama administration and/or permanent civil service people who are acting temporarily in political-appointee spots. The perception that the administration is losing momentum (such as it is) will further hobble the errant Trump team.

UPDATE: The Post reports that Puzder has withdrawn his name.

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