The chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee expressed his support for businessman Andy Puzder’s nomination for Labor Secretary Wednesday shortly after the CEO of CKE Restaurants withdrew his name from consideration.
“Andy Puzder has the experience and ability to make an excellent Labor Secretary, but I respect his decision,” said Sen. Lamar Alexander (R.-Tenn.), who himself served at Education Secretary for President George H.W. Bush.
“He understands the difficulties American workers face in a rapidly changing workforce and I look forward to continuing to hear his insights,” Alexander said.
A Capitol Hill source close to the chairman told Breitbart News that Alexander was not pushing for Puzder to withdraw.
Alexander: “It will be refreshing to have a Secretary of Labor who knows the damage that excessive regulation can cause on creating jobs.” pic.twitter.com/0gBfc8Nqd5
— Sen. Lamar Alexander (@SenAlexander) February 12, 2017
The Puzder nomination was a sign of the rapprochement between former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney and President Donald Trump.
Even as Puzder took criticism from left-wing advocacy groups and charges from his ex-wife, Romney stood up for the Labor Secretary-designate.
“When I heard that the President was nominating Andy Puzder for Secretary of Labor, I cheered. Andy should be Secretary of Labor,” Romney posted on his Facebook page Monday. He said:
Andy’s beliefs are rooted in a more optimistic time – a time when people believed that business and labor needed each other, that government could and should help both at the same time. We need that point of view represented in government. As a friend of Andy’s, I know he is a good man; the kind of man we should welcome into government service. I strongly urge the Senate to confirm him so this courageous, honest and effective man can get to the people’s work.
One of Trump’s rivals for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination former Florida governor Jeb Bush Tweeted out Dec. 8 his own support for Puzder, a sure sign that establishment Republicans were willing to go out on a limb for the embattled restaurant CEO.
In the end, it came down to numbers.
The Republicans hold a 52-to-48 majority in the Senate, which means three GOP defections are enough to defeat a nominee. By Tuesday there were media reports that four Republicans were unsure about supporting Puzder, followed by reports Wednesday that the number was up to six.
The Democrats were pressing hard, led by Sen. Patty Murray (D.-Wash), the committee’s top Democrat. Puzder would be the first of Trump’s cabinet nominees not confirmed.
Murray on Puzder withdrawal: From the start, it's been clear that Andrew Puzder is uniquely unqualified to serve as Secretary of Labor.
— Senator Patty Murray (@PattyMurray) February 15, 2017
Other reports said that Senate Republican leaders pressured the White House to pull the plug on Puzder’s bid before the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee held its vote on the nomination–a vote that was no longer certain given the tight 12-to-11 Republican majority.
A spokesperson for Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R.-Ky.) told Breitbart News that there would be no comment regarding anomymous quotes about how the Senate Republican leadership approached the Puzder nomination.
The spokesperson referred Breitbart News to the leader’s statement made Tuesday: “I’m a strong supporter of Andy Puzder. I think he’s uniquely qualified for this job. We hope we’ll be able to get his hearing this week and deal with him when we get back. But I’m a strong supporter of Puzder. I think he’s a great, great choice.”
That said, Puzder now returns to private life.