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WASHINGTON (Reuters) – In a blow to President Donald Trump as he tries to assemble his administration, his nominee for labor secretary, Andrew Puzder, withdrew his name from consideration on Wednesday amid concerns that he could not garner enough Senate votes to be confirmed.

Puzder’s decision to withdraw is yet another setback this week for a White House still grappling with fallout from Monday night’s abrupt resignation of national security adviser Michael Flynn, after less than a month in the job.

Puzder, the chief executive officer of CKE Restaurants Inc, which franchises fast-food chains including Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr, has been at the center of a swirl of controversies, complaints, and potential conflicts.

He admitted earlier this month that he and his wife had employed an undocumented person as a housekeeper. He faced a flurry of complaints and legal cases brought in recent weeks and months by workers against his business and its franchises. Most recently, a decades-old Oprah Winfrey tape raising allegations of domestic abuse by his ex-wife resurfaced, though those allegations had been withdrawn.

“After careful consideration and discussions with my family, I am withdrawing my nomination for Secretary of Labor,” Puzder said in a statement.

Puzder’s withdrawal came one day before his scheduled confirmation hearing.

At least seven Republican senators, including Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, declined to publicly back Puzder in advance of the confirmation hearing.

For weeks now, Republican senators have been telling Senator John Cornyn, the second-highest ranking Republican, that they believed some of their colleagues would join Collins and Murkowski in opposing Puzder, according to a senior Senate Republican aide.

DEMOCRATS CHEER

The Labor Department oversees compliance with federal laws that mandate safe working conditions, a minimum hourly wage, overtime wages, and prohibit employment discrimination.

As labor secretary, Puzder would have shaped the department’s approach to these issues, including whether to defend an Obama administration rule expanding overtime pay to millions of workers that has been challenged in the courts.

Earlier this month, Puzder admitted he and his wife had employed an undocumented person as a housekeeper and had to pay back taxes as a result.

Workers at some of CKE’s restaurants have filed claims in recent weeks alleging they were victims of wage theft or victims of sexual harassment in the workplace.

Another possible problem were allegations dating back to 1986 that Puzder had physically abused his now ex-wife, Lisa Henning, now known as Lisa Fierstein.

Fierstein filed for divorce in 1987 and later retracted her allegations, but not before appearing anonymously as a victim of domestic abuse on The Oprah Winfrey Show.

Last week, the OWN Network released a copy of that tape to the Senate committee so both Democratic and Republican members could view it, according to an aide.

Democrats on Wednesday cheered over the news of Puzder’s withdrawal.

“From the start, it’s been clear that Puzder is uniquely unqualified to serve as secretary of labor,” said Patty Murray, the ranking member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.

(Additional reporting by Timothy Ahmann, Richard Cowan, Robert Iafolla and Amanda Becker; Editing by Linda Stern and Leslie Adler)

IMAGE: Andrew Puzder, CEO of CKE Restaurants, takes part in a panel discussion titled “Understanding the Post-Recession Consumer” at the Milken Institute Global Conference in Beverly Hills, California  April 30, 2012.  REUTERS/Fred Prouser

Poll: Most Parents Oppose Rapid School Reopening

Numerous local school systems around the country are plowing ahead with plans to resume in-person instruction despite growing evidence that children are just as capable of spreading the coronavirus as adults.

Classes were set to begin on Monday in Baker County, Florida. Masks for students will be optional, not required. "It looks like it's back to normal this morning, honestly," a local television reporter observed as parents dropped their kids off in the morning. Many students wore no face coverings.

The Trump administration and the GOP have pushed for full reopening of schools for months."Schools in our country should be opened ASAP," Donald Trump tweeted in May. "Much very good information now available."

"SCHOOLS MUST OPEN IN THE FALL!!!" he reiterated on July 6.

"The science and data is clear: children can be safe in schools this fall, and they must be in school this fall," demanded Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ) on Aug. 1.

"I believe our schools can, and should rise to the occasion of re-opening for in-person education this fall," agreed Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD) two days later.

"The CDC and Academy of Pediatrics agree: We can safely get students back in classrooms," tweeted House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) last Tuesday.

But while Scalise, Mike Pence, and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos have all cited the American Academy of Pediatrics in their arguments for reopening, a new study by the group and the Children's Hospital Association raises red flags about how safe that will be.

Their report found 338,982 reported coronavirus cases in children as of July 30 in the United States. Between July 16 and July 30, the nation saw a 40% increase — 97,078 new infected children.

Last week, a high school student in an Atlanta suburb posted a photo online showing few students wearing masks in a crowded school hallway. Since that time, at least six students and three adult employees in the school have reportedly contracted the coronavirus, and the school temporarily has switched to online classes.

Another Georgia school district has already seen at least 13 students and staff members test positive since reopening a week ago.

A recent study in South Korea found that children aged ten and older spread the coronavirus at the same rates adults do. A separate study in Chicago suggested young kids might also be effective spreaders.

These contradict the false claims made by Trump and his administration that kids have an "amazing" near immunity to COVID-19.

"If you look at children, children are almost — and I would almost say definitely, but almost immune from this disease, so few. They've got stronger, hard to believe, and I don't know how you feel about it, but they have much stronger immune systems than we do somehow for this," Trump told Fox News on Wednesday.

"You got to open the schools. They have a stronger immune system even than you have or I have," he told Barstool Sports on July 23. "It's amazing. You look at the percentage, it's a tiny percentage of one percent. And in that one case, I mean, I looked at a couple of cases. If you have diabetes, if you have, you know, problems with something, but the kids are in great shape." Children have made up nearly nine percent of all cases, even with schools mostly closed.

And DeVos incorrectly said in a July 16 interview, "More and more studies show that kids are actually stoppers of the disease and they don't get it and transmit it themselves."

In early July, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued guidelines for how schools could operate more safely during the pandemic.

Trump publicly ridiculed the guidelines, dismissing them as "very tough & expensive" and "very impractical."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.