President Trump’s nominee for Secretary of Labor is slated for a Senate hearing later this week – and if the list of questions from Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) is a harbinger, it’s going to be a contentious one.
Ahead of that Feb. 16 hearing before the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions (HELP), Warren has sent a 28-page letter to Secretary of Labor nominee Andrew Puzder asking for information about what she called Puzder’s “conflicts of interest and his plans for addressing conflicts of interest with the numerous companies of President Trump’s that are regulated by the Department of Labor (DOL), his opposition to minimum wage laws and other vital protections for workers and families, and his company’s prolific history of labor and discrimination suits.”
Lest there be any doubt as to where Warren stands on Puzder’s record, the letter claims that her staff’s review of his 16-year tenure as CEO of CKE Restaurants, Inc., “…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,” alongside what she characterized as a “…long record of public comments” that she said “…reveals a sneering contempt for the workers in your stores, and a vehement opposition to the laws you will be charged with enforcing.”
The 28-page letter contains 83 questions for Puzder, including several regarding the Labor Department’s fiduciary regulation. Those questions seek to find out:
- If anyone from the White House consulted with Puzder about the Feb. 3 Executive Memorandum (and if so, who).
- What information Puzder would review as a result of the ordered assessment of the regulation’s impact, and whether he would commit to only reviewing information that was “independent and not funded or otherwise compromised by financial industry players with vested interest in the findings.”
- The names of “all career and political staff at DOL” who would conduct the analysis.
Warren also asked Puzder to comment on whether he had any reason to believe that the findings of the new analysis “…will be any different from the detailed, multi-year analysis of the costs and benefits of the rule that was already conducted by the DOL” as well as “the extensive Regulatory Impact Analysis” – and if so, why?
Warren asked Puzder if he would “refrain from taking any additional action to delay or limit the rule” until that analysis was complete, if he would “inform Congress on an ongoing basis” of the status of these efforts, and – assuming the rule becomes applicable on April 10, if he would “enforce it to the fullest extent of the law,” as well as what criteria he would use to determine if the rule was working as expected.
Finally, citing two reports that her office has produced on kickbacks, Warren asked if Puzder believes those kind of incentives “could encourage a salesperson to recommend a product that is not in the best interest of the customer.”
Warren has sent similar letters to three previous nominees: HHS Secretary Tom Price, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, and HUD Secretary nominee Dr. Ben Carson.