On December 8, days after Donald Trump chose Andy Puzder as his nominee for Labor Secretary, I predicted that he wouldn’t get confirmed. I didn’t have any special inside information, just the knowledge that Puzder’s beliefs included the one idea conservatives would not not abide: support for immigration reform. Breitbart’s Julia Hahn, who’s now working in the White House, wrote a scathing piece on December 8, excoriating Puzder for supporting “amnesty and flooding the labor market with foreign workers.”
It wasn’t just that the immigration issue would sap Puzder’s support among the far right. It meant that the grassroots wouldn’t have his back if any other damaging information about Puzder revealed itself. And boy, did it reveal itself, resulting today in Puzder’s withdrawal from consideration for the cabinet post.
The hidden catalyst in Puzder’s demise is actually Betsy DeVos. Her confirmation hearing went forward without completion of financial disclosures and ethics documents, to the outcry of Senate Democrats. Because the hearing went so badly and the confirmation became a mess requiring a tie-breaking vote from Vice President Mike Pence, Senate HELP Committee Chair Lamar Alexander vowed that Puzder would not get the same latitude, and would have to finish his forms before any hearing.
Puzder, the CEO of the CKE restaurant chains (including Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s), had such a complicated set of financial entanglements, the hearing got delayed four times. This gave opponents the chance to build up a wealth of opposition research on the nominee.
I’d like to say that Puzder’s reign of terror as CEO, marked by allegations of widespread labor violations, wage-fixing, and millions of dollars in payouts to mistreated workers, turned the tide on his nomination. I’d like to think we live in a world where Republicans can be moved by fast-food workers protesting in the streets. I’d like to say that Puzder’s well-established views opposing the very laws the Labor Department oversees was a red flag for, after all, anti-labor Republicans. But I don’t think we live in that world. Two issues unrelated to Puzder’s business practices combined to sink him.