Labor secretary nominee’s confirmation hearing delayed again

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The confirmation hearing for President Trump’s Labor secretary nominee Andrew Puzder was delayed again to allow more time for the candidate to submit his paperwork.

The hearing is now set for Tuesday, Feb. 7, according to a statement Thursday from Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), the chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) committee.

This is the third time the confirmation hearing for the fast-food CEO has been pushed back. Puzder’s hearings were previously scheduled for Jan. 12, Jan. 17 and Feb. 2.

The latest delay was announced a day after a key Democrat on the panel, Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-Wash.) wrote a letter to Puzder asking him to turn in his paperwork and expressing concerns that the lag might not give lawmakers enough time to “perform a thorough review.”

“This is now the fourth hearing date that has been set for Mr. Puzder, and we have yet to receive any of his required paperwork,” Murray said after the hearing was rescheduled. “If those documents raise more concerns about Mr. Puzder’s record or his ability to lead an agency dedicated to standing up for workers and families, Congress and the public deserve to know what they are.”

Alexander rescheduled the hearing to give Puzder more time to finish his paperwork and to give committee members a chance to review the documents before the hearing, according to a spokesman for the senator. The Senate HELP committee needs to vet and approve Puzder before his nomination can go to the full Senate for a vote.

Potential Cabinet members who fall under the HELP committee for review are required to turn in some forms that compile general background information and some financial details several days before their hearings. Nominees also need to complete a background check with the FBI and submit financial disclosures to the Office of Government Ethics. In her letter, Murray said she was still waiting to hear from the White House about whether Puzder had completed his background check.

A Senate aide confirmed that Puzder has filed his ethics paperwork with the Office of Government Ethics. But the report, which would outline how the nominee plans to avoid conflicts of interest if confirmed, is still being reviewed and has not been submitted to the Senate.

George Thompson, a spokesman for Puzder, said in a statement that “Mr. Puzder’s nomination paperwork is progressing and he is looking forward to the hearing.” He deferred questions about the latest hearing delay to Alexander, who issued a statement supporting the potential labor secretary.

“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,” Alexander said. “I look forward to hearing from him about how we can work together to create an environment to help create jobs for more Americans.”

Other Cabinet-level nominees have faced delays with their required paperwork. Treasury secretary nominee Steve Mnuchin initially left out about $100 million in assets from his financial disclosure forms. Education pick Betsy DeVos did not submit her ethics agreement to the Senate until after her confirmation hearing, leading lawmakers to delay her confirmation vote and spurring Senate Democrats to request a second confirmation hearing.

In her letter, Murray also asked Puzder and all other Cabinet nominees to submit up to three years of tax returns. Nominees are not required to turn in tax returns by law, but the Senate has traditionally requested the forms for some nominees, such as the potential head of the Treasury, which oversees the IRS.

At his hearing, Puzder is likely to face questions about his track record as the chief executive of CKE Restaurants, the parent company for Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s. Lawmakers may ask questions about alleged wage and hour violations at Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr. locations. Puzder may need to talk about his views on labor policies promoted by the Obama administration, such as his criticism of  a now halted rule that would have expanded eligibility for overtime pay and his opposition to substantially raising the minimum wage.

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