Labor Secretary Nominee
On February 15, amid growing opposition from Republican Senators, Labor Secretary Nominee Andrew Puzder withdrew his name from consideration just before his confirmation hearing with the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee. Mr. Puzder is the CEO of CKE Restaurants, which is the parent company to the Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s chains. During the review process, his workers, organized labor and Labor department employees raised serious concerns about his confirmation based on his company’s high rate of labor violations, his opposition to the minimum wage requirements, and the comments he has made about workers and women. As Labor Secretary, he would be responsible for enforcing the rights of workers the department has been charged with protecting. On February 16, the White House announced the new nominee for Labor Secretary: Alexander Acosta. Mr. Acosta is the dean of the Florida International University law school and previously served as the assistant attorney general in the Justice Department’s civil rights division under President George W. Bush.
On December 9, Congress approved a stopgap funding measure on a vote of 63-36 that will fund government through April 28, 2017, maintaining the current budget cap level of $1.07 trillion and avoiding a government shutdown. Congress reconvened in January to begin what promises to be a very busy and contentious session. The Republican leadership has indicated that their initial priorities will be repealing the Affordable Care Act, tax reform, regulatory reform, lifting environmental restrictions, and budget cuts to non-defense domestic programs, which includes workforce development. On February 27, the White House released its initial budget guidance for FY 2018 that calls for a $54 billion increase in defense spending, representing a 10% increase, with corresponding cuts to non-defense discretionary spending.
Congresswoman Virginia Foxx (R-NC) is the new chair of the House Education and the Workforce Committee. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) is the chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee.