WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s nominee for labor secretary abruptly withdrew his nomination Wednesday after Senate Republicans balked at supporting him, in part over taxes he belatedly paid on a former housekeeper not authorized to work in the United States.
Fast food executive Andrew Puzder said in a statement provided to The Associated Press that he was “honored to have been considered by President Donald Trump to lead the Department of Labor.”
Democrats and their allies rejoiced over Puzder’s withdrawal, saying his corporate background and opposition to such proposals as a big hike in the minimum wage made him an unfit advocate for American workers at the top of an agency charged with enforcing protections.
They also made it clear that Puzder’s statements about women and his own workers would be major issues at his planned confirmation hearing Thursday.
“Workers and families across the country spoke up loud and clear that they want a true champion for all workers in the Labor Department,” said Sen. Patty Murray, the ranking Democrat on the panel that was to handle the hearing.
What troubled majority Republicans most of all was Puzder’s acknowledgement that he had not paid taxes on the housekeeper until after Trump nominated him to the Cabinet post Dec. 9 — five years after he had fired the worker.
They also grumbled about the Trump administration’s failure to more thoroughly check its nominee’s background. It wasn’t immediately clear whether Puzder had been up front with the White House about the housekeeper when Trump picked him, and a spokesman did not immediately return a call for comment.
Ultimately, Republicans made it clear that Puzder did not have the votes for confirmation.
One senator, speaking on condition of anonymity because the conversations were private, said six senators had asked the White House to call off Puzder’s scheduled Thursday hearing because they couldn’t see themselves voting for him. That would have put the nomination in jeopardy, since Senate Republicans have only a 52-48 majority and Democrats are solidly opposed.
Puzder’s spokesman said the nominee had paid the taxes as soon as he found out he owed them. But the discrepancy remained a growing political problem for Republicans and the Trump White House, which has taken a hard line on immigration and taxes.
“I want to hear what he has to say about that,” said Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., who added he had moved from endorsing the nominee to joining the ranks of GOP senators who weren’t committing to vote for Puzder before the scheduled hearing.
“There are concerns” over “the immigration issue,” said Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., who said he shared those concerns and said the Republicans discussed the matter in their caucus meeting Wednesday.