US labour nominee withdraws in another setback for Trump

Andrew Puzder withdrew from consideration for the post of labour secretary a day before his scheduled confirmation amid concerns that he would not get enough Senate votes.

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Andrew Puzder (R) says he withdrew after "careful consideration" and consulting his family.

US President Donald Trump's 27-day-old administration was dealt another setback on Wednesday when Andrew Puzder withdrew from consideration for the position of labour secretary amid concerns that he would not gain Senate approval.

Puzder's confirmation hearing was scheduled for Thursday. His decision is seen as another blow to the White House still regrouping after the resignation of national security adviser Michael Flynn on Monday night, after less than a month on the job.

"After careful consideration and discussions with my family, I am withdrawing my nomination for Secretary of Labor," Puzder said in a statement.

Questions of labour rights

Puzder, the chief executive officer of CKE Restaurants Inc, which primarily franchises fast-food chains including Hardee's and Carl's Jr, has been at the centre of a swirl of controversies, complaints and potential conflicts.

He admitted earlier this month that he and his wife had employed an undocumented person as a housekeeper. He faced a flurry of complaints and legal cases brought in recent weeks and months by workers against his business and the franchises.

Workers of CKE's  fast food restaurants protested on Monday against Andy Puzder as US labour secretary. (Reuters)

Workers have filed claims in recent weeks alleging they were victims of wage theft or victims of sexual harassment in the workplace. 

At least seven Republican senators, including Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, declined to publicly back Puzder in advance of the confirmation hearing.

"From the start, it's been clear that Puzder is uniquely unqualified to serve as secretary of labor," said Patty Murray, the ranking member of the US Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.

New security adviser?

The Trump administration has offered the job of White House national security advisor to Vice Admiral Robert Harward, according to US media reports. Harward would replace Flynn, who resigned after revelations that he had discussed US sanctions on Russia with the Russian ambassador to the United States before President Donald Trump took office.

It was not immediately clear if Harward, a former deputy commander of US Central Command and retired Navy Seal, had accepted the offer. A White House spokesperson had no immediate comment.

The Rhode Island native went to school in Tehran before the Shah was toppled in 1979. He did a tour on the US National Security Council under former Republican president George W. Bush, working on "counter-terrorism." Harward also served in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Harward now works as an executive for defence contractor Lockheed Martin, with responsibility for its business in the United Arab Emirates in the Middle East.

TRTWorld and agencies