Labor Nominee Puzder’s Hearing Delayed Third Time, to Feb. 7

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By Ben Penn and Tyrone Richardson

A Senate panel delayed for the third time Andrew Puzder’s labor secretary confirmation hearing, a move designed to give the fast-food executive more time to submit his required disclosures.

The Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee’s latest five-day postponement provides more “time for Mr. Puzder’s paperwork to come in and for members to have a chance to review it before the hearing, in order to prevent another distraction over committee process,” a Republican committee aide told Bloomberg BNA Jan. 26.

The hearing is now scheduled for Feb. 7. Initially, it was planned for Jan. 12.

Puzder, the chief executive officer of CKE Restaurants Inc.—parent company of the Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr. brands—has not yet cleared potential conflicts of interest with the Office of Government Ethics. Committee Democrats also want to see Puzder’s tax returns and criminal background information, according to a new letter from ranking member Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.).

“I am concerned that the absence of your paperwork at this late stage may impede the Committee’s ability to perform a thorough review,” Murray wrote to Puzder.

The hearing’s delay follows rising controversy voiced by worker advocates and new media reports chronicling the CEO’s private-sector background and alleged worker violations. The schedule shift also comes amid new workplace violations alleged by Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s workers in 33 complaints announced Jan. 26 (see related story).

“Mr. Puzder is a respected Tennessee business leader who understands how excessive regulation can destroy jobs and make it harder for family incomes to rise,” HELP Chairman Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) said in the statement announcing the delay. “I look forward to hearing from him about how we can work together to create an environment to help create jobs for more Americans.”

“Mr. Puzder’s nomination paperwork is progressing and he is looking forward to the hearing,” George Thompson, a Puzder spokesman, said in a statement.

Senators Await Ethics Letter

HELP committee rules require Cabinet nominees to file a two-part disclosure. The public section includes employment and education histories, and a separate confidential portion covers financial and other information.

The deadline for these submissions is five days before the hearing. That gives Puzder until next week.

The committee rules are silent on the separate OGE paperwork. The precedent has been for Cabinet selections to submit the ethics disclosure before the committee votes, not necessarily before the hearing, Margaret Atkinson, an Alexander spokeswoman, told Bloomberg BNA in an e-mail.

There have been instances in which the letter was published after the hearing but before the vote. That would prevent senators from questioning Puzder about ethics review specifics.

Puzder’s first foray into government service is said to entail a lengthy and complicated process as his team works with the independent OGE to resolve potential conflicts.

The committee rules also do not require copies of tax returns to be submitted. Murray wrote to Puzder that submitting tax returns for HELP staffers to confidentially review has proven helpful in the past. There have been at least three previous Cabinet secretaries under the committee’s jurisdiction who have done so, she said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Ben Penn in Washington at bpenn@bna.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Peggy Aulino at maulino@bna.com; Terence Hyland at thyland@bna.com; Christopher Opfer at copfer@bna.com

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