- - Wednesday, February 15, 2017


If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. And then try some more. The Democrats finally got a Cabinet scalp Wednesday, when Andrew Puzder withdrew his name from consideration as secretary of Labor. Democrats had earlier unsuccessfully targeted Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos for honorary termination with extreme prejudice, and missed.

The crowing began Wednesday as soon as Mr. Puzder announced his withdrawal. “The simple truth is that given his relationship with employees at the companies he runs, he was not fit to lead a department responsible for defending workers’ rights,” says Sen. Bernie Sanders, the self-righteous runner-up to Hillary Clinton in the race last year for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Democrats, forgetting who won the election, are unhappy because Mr. Puzder and the president’s other Cabinet choices are not advocates for the things that warm liberal hearts, such as preventing automation in the workplace and embracing runaway increases in the federally mandated minimum wage. Mr. Puzder probably would have survived the carping but for hiring an undocumented immigrant — an “illegal alien,” as such a prospective immigrant is more accurately called — as a housekeeper and failing to pay the taxes on her pay.

But several Republicans and conservatives joined in the criticism of such negligence, including the editors of National Review and Breitbart, the internet news site. Senators were further treated to watching a video of Mr. Puzder’s ex-wife reciting her domestic woes on Oprah Winfrey’s television show. She says she was abused 30 years ago, and she later recanted the accusations.

“My wife and I employed a housekeeper for a few years, during which I was unaware that she was not legally permitted to work in the United States,” Mr. Puzder says. “When I learned of her status, we immediately ended her employment and offered her assistance in getting legal status.”

Legalizing the status of domestic workers has never been a high priority in Congress, whether controlled by Democrats or Republicans; immigration reform has failed despite recurring waves of illegals overrunning the border. There’s just no great eagerness of congressmen to wash and iron their own shirts, clean their toilets and mind their children. It’s one of the greater ironies of our time that members of Congress who cheerfully tolerate illegal immigration are nevertheless eager to punish someone who hires an “undocumented immigrant.”

Confirmation hearings on the Puzder nomination were repeatedly delayed as he worked to remove himself from duties as chief executive of CKE Restaurants, whose eat places included Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s. He finally declared himself “all in” Monday, and ready to face congressional committees when he unexpectedly withdrew his name.

There’s a long history of undocumented household workers tripping up Cabinet choices. Bill Clinton all but despaired of finding an acceptable attorney general two decades ago after not one, but two, candidates — Zoe Baird and Kimba Wood — had to withdraw for failing to pay proper household-help taxes. Mr. Clinton finally settled on Janet Reno.

President Trump has had two such misfires. Wilbur Ross, his choice for secretary of Commerce, concedes that he has employed an undocumented household worker, and Rep. Mick Mulvaney of South Carolina, his nominee for budget director said he had paid $15,000 in back taxes and penalties to the Internal Revenue Service to square the taxes for a nanny that he forgot about.

The episode should send shudders through Congress, an important source of jobs for domestic workers. But Congress only makes laws. Obeying laws is sometimes below a member’s pay grade.

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