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Trump's Labor secretary pick Andy Puzder withdraws nomination


Andy Puzder withdrew from consideration for Labor secretary Wednesday as Republican Senate opposition to President Donald Trump's choice mounted.

The confirmation of the CKE Restaurants chief executive looked increasingly in peril in recent days amid concerns about his business record and personal issues. Puzder needed a majority of Senate votes to become Labor secretary, but reports indicated that at least four of the 52 GOP senators could vote against him.

Puzder's hearing before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee was set for Thursday.

"After careful consideration and discussions with my family, I am withdrawing my nomination for Secretary of Labor. I am honored to have been considered by President Donald Trump to lead the Department of Labor and put America's workers and businesses back on a path to sustainable prosperity," Puzder said in a statement Wednesday. "

"While I won't be serving in the administration, I fully support the President and his highly qualified team."

Puzder's withdrawal deals yet another setback to Trump's administration, which on Monday saw the resignation of National Security Advisor Michael Flynn. Trump and some Senate Republicans have already knocked Democrats for the slow pace of Cabinet confirmations, which the minority party insists is because of concerns about the nominees' qualifications and ethics paperwork.

Puzder, CEO of the parent company of fast food chains Carl's Jr. and Hardee's, faced opposition since Trump picked him for the Cabinet post. Democrats argued he would not protect workers, seizing on his opposition to federal minimum wage increases, his remarks about replacing fast food workers with robots and alleged wage violations at some CKE restaurants.

His past statements on immigration and the revelation that he hired an undocumented immigrant as a household employee also opened him to criticism from some conservatives. Puzder previously said he was "unaware that she was not legally permitted to work in the U.S." and "immediately ended her employment and offered her assistance in getting legal status" when he found out she was undocumented.

But his ex-wife Lisa Fierstein's decades-old abuse allegations, which she has since retracted, generated the most attention in the days before his committee hearing. Fierstein appeared on Oprah Winfrey's show in 1990 detailing the accusations, and Winfrey provided the tape to the Senate committee before which Puzder was supposed to testify.

Divorce records released Tuesday night show that Puzder's ex-wife accused him of "striking her violently about the face, chest, back, shoulders and neck, without provocation or cause," according to The New York Times. A spokesman for Puzder told the newspaper that sharing the allegations was "nothing more than a desperate attempt to tarnish Andy Puzder."

His confirmation process was previously delayed because he failed to submit required ethics and financial paperwork.

On Wednesday, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., called Puzder's withdrawal "a victory for the American worker." He said, "Puzder should never have even been nominated."

Democrats vehemently fought several Trump Cabinet nominees, and Vice President Mike Pence needed to cast a historic tiebreaking vote last week for Republicans to confirm Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.