Labor secretary nominee Andy Puzder is facing delays because of complications in meeting ethics requirements that he separate himself from his fast-food chain, a spokesman said Wednesday.
Puzder also squelched rumors that he is having second thoughts about the position.
“I am fully committed to becoming secretary of labor and I am looking forward to my hearing,” Puzder said in a statement to the Associated Press, which first reported the news that he is trying to divest his assets in CKE Restaurants.
Puzder’s hearing has been postponed four times because of delays with his ethics review and holdups with other nominees.
Potential Cabinet members reviewed by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee need to submit paperwork that compiles general background information and some financial details at least five days before their hearings. Nominees also must complete a background check with the FBI. As part of the ethics review, candidates have to disclose financial holdings and present a plan for how they would avoid conflicts of interests.
Puzder began working on his ethics paperwork three weeks ago but encountered complications because CKE, which includes burger chains Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s, is privately held, spokesman George Thompson said. Shares of publicly held companies can be sold easily on the stock market, but it can be more difficult to offload private holdings.
If confirmed, Puzder would step down as chief executive of his fast-food business.
Initially, Puzder wanted to move his stake in the company into a blind trust but was told by the Office of Government Ethics that he would need to divest, Thompson said. The OGE did not respond to a request for comment in time for publication. A new hearing date will not be set until his ethics paperwork is complete, according to an aide for Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), the chairman of the Senate HELP committee.
Puzder is likely to face a contentious nomination process. Congressional Democrats, labor groups and other opponents point to stories from employees of his fast-food chain alleging that they were often asked to work extra hours without being paid overtime or made to work through breaks. The nominee may also face criticism from Republicans for past statements supporting immigration reform and criticizing the idea that investing in infrastructure improvements can lead to long-term economic growth.
Business groups and restaurant associations say they look forward to the possibility of having someone in the Labor Department who understands their concerns.