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By Ben Penn
Labor Secretary-designate Andrew Puzder’s Senate confirmation hearing is being delayed until possibly February in part so lawmakers can review financial, ethics and criminal background disclosures, Democrats told Bloomberg BNA.
Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), a newcomer to the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, told Bloomberg BNA Jan. 10 that HELP staffers are waiting for Puzder to submit the paperwork traditionally reviewed before the confirmation process. “I’ve heard that’s one of the reasons why this is being delayed,” Kaine said in an interview.
Puzder, the chief executive officer of CKE Restaurants Inc., was originally scheduled to go before the Senate panel Jan. 17. An aide for HELP Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), told Bloomberg BNA in an e-mail that the hearing was pushed back because of changes in the schedule for the Betsy DeVos education secretary review.
The entire GOP caucus is expected to back Puzder’s nomination if and when it eventually reaches the chamber floor. Puzder has been heavily criticized by Democrats and worker advocacy groups, however, who say his opposition to labor regulations makes him a threat to workers (see related story).
An aide for President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Bloomberg BNA that the fast food mogul submitted the paperwork to the Office of Government Ethics several days ago. The spokesman didn’t comment on whether the filings contributed to the latest confirmation hearing delay.
HELP committee rules require Cabinet nominees to file a two-part disclosure: One is public and includes employment and education histories, and another is confidential and covers financial information. The deadline for these submissions is five days before the hearing.
The OGE is an independent agency charged with reviewing Puzder’s business involvements to determine how he would need to clear possible conflicts of interest before serving on the Cabinet. HELP Committee rules are silent on when nominees must submit OGE filings.
Democrats have little power to stop Puzder and Trump’s other nominees from being confirmed, given Republican control of the Senate. They’re focusing much of their fire, however, on conflict-of-interest concerns related to some nominees’ business entanglements and what they call related delays in disclosure paperwork.
“Democrats hope this second delay in Mr. Puzder’s hearing date indicates that he is planning to complete required ethics paperwork so that it can be submitted to the HELP Committee ahead of his hearing, consistent with the practices of the Obama Administration and as Leader McConnell demanded in 2009,” a HELP Democratic committee aide told Bloomberg BNA via e-mail.
Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), who sits on the HELP Committee, told Bloomberg BNA he didn’t know for sure what caused the postponement.
“All of these nominees have been historically slow at getting their paperwork in,” Murphy said. “We’re also talking about a bunch of billionaires who have really complicated potential conflicts of interest. So I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s the reason.”
“I think by spacing these nominations out, we’ll have more time to prepare,” Murphy added. “There will be more of a likelihood that the public will see who these people really are, and I think that is a good thing.”
To contact the reporter on this story: Ben Penn in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org
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