Andrew Puzder, President Donald Trump’s pick for labor secretary, pulled his name from consideration on Wednesday, after it became obvious that he didn’t have enough Senate votes to clear the confirmation hurdle.
The move is considered a setback for the fledgling Trump administration—one of many in a week marked by breathtaking intelligence leaks and the resignation of National Security Advisor Michael Flynn. But it also presents an opportunity for Trump to infuse more diversity into his prospective cabinet, which—as of now—is mostly white and mostly male.
Puzder’s withdrawal—prompted by domestic violence allegations, organized labor protests, and conflict of interest concerns—takes Trump back to square one in selecting who will head his Labor Department, and Bloomberg—citing a White House official—reports he’s already considering several new contenders. Making the list of potential candidates are two members of the National Labor Relations Board—Peter Kirsanow and R. Alexander Acosta—as well as Michigan State University assistant professor Joseph Guzman, and Catherine Templeton, former head of the South Carolina labor department.
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Templeton is a Charleston attorney known for anti-union work. Last fall she declared her candidacy for governor in South Carolina, entering an already crowded field to replace Nikki Haley, Trump’s pick for United Nations ambassador, who was confirmed last month. Templeton has never held elected political office. Haley appointed her as South Carolina’s labor secretary and later as head of the state health department.
Trump met with Templeton in December at Trump Tower. At the time, she described the meeting only as Trump wanting “to hear from a business person who’s been on the inside and achieved government reforms at the local level.”
Trump is reportedly meeting with her again on Friday. If she ends up as his new pick for labor secretary, she would be the fifth woman selected by Trump for his 23-member circle of advisors that require senate confirmation. The others are Haley as UN ambassador, Elaine Chao as secretary of transportation, Betsy DeVos as education secretary, and Linda McMahon as administrator of the small business administration. The senate has confirmed all four. By comparison, President Barack Obama appointed seven women to his first cabinet. President George W. Bush selected four women. President Bill Clinton picked six.
Historically, labor secretary is the job that’s been held most by women. A woman has filled it seven times, according to the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University, with Hilda Solis, appointed by Obama, being the most recent woman to serve in the role from 2009 to 2013. Labor secretary was also the first-ever cabinet position filled by a woman: Frances Perkins held it under President Franklin Roosevelt starting in 1933.