UPDATE: On Wednesday, Feb. 15, Andrew Puzder withdrew his name from consideration.
WASHINGTON — The week after her high-profile showdown over President Trump’s pick for attorney general, Elizabeth Warren is gearing up for another round — this time with her sights trained on fast food chief executive Andrew Puzder, the president’s nominee to head the Department of Labor.
Warren this morning fired off a 28-page letter with 83 questions for Puzder, the chief executive of CKE Restaurants, which runs fast food chains Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr., ahead of his Feb. 16 confirmation hearing before the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee. But there’s little chance his answers will sway Warren, who sits on that panel.
“My staff’s review of your 16-year tenure . . . reveals that you’ve made your fortune by squeezing the very workers you’d be charged with protecting as Labor Secretary out of wages and benefits,” Warren writes in the opening paragraphs of the letter. She goes on to raise concerns about Puzder’s company’s “record of prolific labor law abuses and discrimination suits” and his own “long record of public comments [that] reveals a sneering contempt for the workers in your stores, and a vehement opposition to the laws you will be charged with enforcing.”
Nonetheless, she says the letter is necessary because the HELP committee’s GOP chairman plans to limit each senator to only a few minutes of questions — and she has a lot of questions about his fitness for the job.
Puzder’s nomination has been rocky, with his confirmation hearings repeatedly delayed as he struggled to divest himself of his holdings. Senate Democrats have singled him out as one of Trump’s Cabinet picks they are opposing most strongly — last week Democratic leaders held a press conference calling on Puzder to withdraw — though it remains doubtful they will persuade enough Republicans to vote against him to block his confirmation.
Warren last month organized a forum, along with Senator Patty Murray of Washington, that featured employees of Puzder’s fast food company describing their experiences working for the company. The witnesses offered emotional testimony — often through tears — as they talked about their low wages and long hours. Warren was irate as the witnesses recounted their experiences, and she vowed to press Puzder at his hearing.
Her aggressive letter shows Warren intends to be at the forefront of the ongoing effort to cause Trump as much pain as possible over his Cabinet picks. She drew national attention last week when Senate Republicans voted to block her from speaking on the nomination of Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions to be attorney general.
The formal rebuke was triggered by Warren reading a 1986 letter from Coretta Scott King, Martin Luther King Jr.’s widow, that accused Sessions of racist behavior while he was US attorney in Alabama.
The incident turned Warren into an instant hero for the agitated Democratic base. It was a turnaround from weeks earlier when she drew the ire of progressives for voting to confirm neurosurgeon Ben Carson to lead the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Victoria McGrane can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @vgmac.