The Higher Ed Workplace Blog

Confirmation Hearings Continue for Trump’s Cabinet Picks

The 115th Congress continues to move forward with the confirmation process for President Trump’s nominees. The president has announced 24 individuals that will make up his cabinet, including heads of key federal agencies. Fourteen of these nominees have either just concluded or still face confirmation hearings by the Senate committee of jurisdiction for their designated post and a confirmation vote by the full Senate. Two of those nominees are scheduled for a vote this week.

One of the latest nominees to be confirmed was Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. DeVos, a wealthy philanthropist from Michigan, was confirmed on Tuesday when Vice President Mike Pence cast a historic tie-breaking vote, 51-50. The final vote came after the Senate debated through the night and all Democrats and Independents voted against her, along with two Republicans — Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.

This was the first time in U.S. history that a vice president voted to break a deadlock on a cabinet nomination. DeVos’s nomination was opposed by many teachers’ groups concerned with her stances on school choice and her lack of experience with public education. She also came under fire for comments she made at her confirmation hearing.

The confirmation hearing for Trump’s Secretary of Labor nominee Andrew Puzder, the CEO of CKE Restaurants (Carl’s Jr./Hardees), is scheduled for February 16. Puzder’s confirmation hearing has been delayed several times because of issues with paperwork that needs to be approved by the Office of Government Ethics. Puzder’s wealth complicates his disclosure documents and possible required divestitures. At this point, it is expected that he will be confirmed, though he faces several obstacles.

A variety of concerns have been raised by his critics, including racy television commercials run by his restaurant chains, opposition to increasing the minimum wage to $15 and some statements he made about employees in the quick-service industry. In addition, this week, the press reported Puzder unknowingly employed an undocumented worker as a housekeeper for a few years. Upon learning of her illegal work status, Puzder says he ended her employment and offered her assistance in getting legal status. He has fully paid back taxes to the IRS and the state of California and submitted all required paperwork.

Some of the issues cited by critics of Puzder have derailed nominees in the past, but now seem to hold less weight in the overall consideration of a nominee.