WASHINGTON — Sen. Susan Collins of Maine and three other Republican members of the Senate panel considering President Trump’s nominee for secretary of labor aren’t saying publicly whether they will vote for him.

Collins and the three other senators – Tim Scott of South Carolina, Johnny Isakson of Georgia and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska – have each said they won’t decide how to vote on fast-food executive Andrew Puzder’s nomination until after his Senate confirmation hearing Thursday. The four serve on the Senate’s Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

Collins’ staff said she plans to keep an open mind and won’t make a final decision until after the hearing. Unlike some Cabinet nominees for whom she has expressed support, Collins does not know Puzder and therefore has not made up her mind, her staff said.

“I have not reached a decision. I almost always wait until there is a hearing, unless I know the individual well,” Collins said Monday night in a statement released by her office. “I’ve had two conversations with Mr. Puzder. I think there are outstanding questions that I’m sure will be delved into at his hearing.”

Thursday’s hearing is expected to last for several hours as questions about Puzder’s previous marital relationship and his employment of an undocumented immigrant to work as his housekeeper are likely to be raised.

Meeting with reporters Monday in Washington, Collins mentioned that she has watched Puzder’s ex-wife’s appearance in disguise as a victim of domestic violence on Oprah Winfrey’s talk show in the 1980s.


“I have gone to view the Oprah Winfrey show for an hour on which his former wife appeared and I’m reviewing the other information that has come to light,” Collins told the reporters.

It was the first time a Republican senator publicly acknowledged evaluating the domestic violence accusation.

Puzder’s ex-wife, Lisa Fierstein, has recanted the abuse allegations against Puzder, which were made as part of their divorce proceedings. He has long denied the accusations, and in a Jan. 18 letter to the committee she reiterated that “Andy is not and was not abusive or violent.”

When asked whether the taped interview with Winfrey would influence her decision, Collins told reporters: “We’ll see what happens at the hearing. It’s really too soon to make a decision.”

Collins and her colleague on the committee, Murkowski, joined every Democrat in the Senate in voting against Trump nominee Betsy DeVos, who was confirmed last week as education secretary when Vice President Mike Pence broke a 50-50 tie.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has privately vowed to move Puzder’s nomination through despite questions about any potential conflicts of interest.


Collins and the other three senators have said they are concerned about other issues involving Puzder, such as his acknowledgment that he employed a housekeeper who was not authorized to work in the U.S. but only paid her taxes after Trump nominated him Dec. 9.

Collins did not hold back Monday on Trump’s nominee for secretary of veterans affairs, Dr. David Shulkin. Collins met Shulkin last year when he toured the community-based outpatient clinic and Cary Medical Center in Caribou.

“I believe (Shulkin’s) impressive record of service in both the public and private health care sectors, as well as his firm grasp of VA health care issues, make him extraordinarily well-qualified to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs through the coming period of major reforms and continuing transformation,” Collins said Monday in a speech on the Senate floor.

Shulkin was confirmed by the Senate on Monday night. He is the lone holdover from the Obama administration, on which he served as the VA’s undersecretary for health.

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