By Sarah N. Lynch
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Senate panel tasked with vetting Andrew Puzder to head the Labor Department has postponed its tentative plans to hold his confirmation hearing yet again, a move that some political strategists say could signal trouble for the fast-food executive.
An aide for the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions said on Tuesday that the panel will not "officially" schedule a hearing "until the committee has received his paperwork from the Office of Government Ethics."
The committee had planned to hold Puzder's hearing on Feb. 7. Prior to that, the committee eyed three other possible hearing dates.
Puzder, who is the CEO of CKE Restaurants, is one of several of President Donald Trump's nominees who has faced particularly strong opposition from Senate Democrats and progressive groups.
His nomination sparked protests by some CKE fast-food workers and the union-backed "Fight for $15" movement to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour.
George Thompson, a spokesman for Puzder, said Democrats and special interest groups were "obstructing President Trump's nominees" and that Puzder is "a proven job creator."
Puzder has criticized an overtime rule championed by the Obama administration and opposes raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour.
Last week, workers at franchised locations of Carl's Jr. and Hardee's, which are part of CKE's restaurant portfolio, filed a range of complaints, alleging wage theft and harassment, among other things.
Additionally, some of CKE's racy advertisements featuring women in bikinis have caused Democrats to ask questions about how Puzder will address sexual harassment in the workplace.
"I like our ads. I like beautiful women eating burgers in bikinis," he was quoted as saying in a 2015 article in Entrepreneur magazine. He added that those ads "did take on my personality."
Experts say the repeated postponement of Puzder's hearing and the delays over his ethics paperwork since he was first nominated on Dec. 8 are unusual and could be a sign of problems.
"It is a likely sign that the vetting is turning up problems and they are trying to figure out how to deal with them," said Matthew Miller, a partner at the crisis management firm Vianovo.
The new delays come on the same day that the same committee voted along party lines to advance Betsy DeVos' nomination as education secretary to the full Senate floor.
On another Senate panel, meanwhile, Democrats boycotted confirmation votes for Treasury Secretary-nominee Steve Mnuchin and Health and Human Services Secretary-nominee Tom Price.
(Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; additional reporting by Robert Iafolla; Editing by Dan Grebler)