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As Senate Republicans Continue to Block Vote, President Biden May Have to Renominate Dilawar Syed as Deputy Administrator of SBA

As Senate Republicans Continue to Block Vote, President Biden May Have to Renominate Dilawar Syed as Deputy Administrator of SBA

  • GOP members on the Senate Committee on Small Business & Entrepreneurship, which concluded its last meeting of 2021, come up with specious excuses for not voting on Syed's nomination.

The Senate Republicans have once again blocked the nomination of Dilawar Syed, President Biden’s choice to be Deputy Administrator of the Small Business Administration. This was the fifth time that “every Republican member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business & Entrepreneurship failed to attend a scheduled business meeting [on Nov. 17] to consider Syed’s nomination,” said a press release issued by the committee. “The members’ refusal to attend the meeting once again denied the committee the quorum necessary under the Senate rules to forward the nomination,” the press release said, adding that it was also “unable to consider two bipartisan disaster assistance bills.”

Biden first nominated Syed in March. If confirmed, he would become the highest-ranking Muslim official in the administration.


A technology entrepreneur based in Silicon Valley, the Pakistan-born Syed has built and led global organizations in various leadership roles. He served on President Obama’s White House Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) and chaired the White House Initiative on AAPIs’ Economic Growth Committee.

He was a surrogate in President Obama’s 2012 campaign and served as a member of Obama for America’s 2008 National Finance Committee. He was a member of the then California Attorney General Kamala Harris’ Policy Transition team, and in 2008 served as national co-chair of the DNC’s South Asian Leadership Council as an appointee of Gov. Howard Dean. 

Committee chair Ben Cardin (D-Md.) spoke of the shifting justifications for denying Syed a vote. He specifically rebutted Republican claims that Planned Parenthood was not eligible for Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans — the most recent GOP excuse for blocking Syed’s nomination. 

“Mr. Syed is a qualified individual,” Cardin said in the press release. “He should be confirmed as deputy administrator. We’ve given SBA a lot of work to do. And we’re asking for accountability. It would be nice to have a confirmed deputy administrator so that we can work with that person and make sure our policies are being carried out the way we intend them to be,” he said. “We know that we’ve heard from a lot of our small businesses that they need to have the full complement at the SBA in order to have the timely help they need during this pandemic and after this pandemic.”

The press release noted that the partisanship of the Republican committee members “is harming American small businesses, that are still struggling through the COVID-19 pandemic,” It noted that the SBA has not had a deputy administrator — “the position responsible for the day-to-day operations of the agency — for more than 3 years due to the Trump Administration’s failure to put forward a nominee.”

Given Republicans’ continued obstruction, Syed’s chances could be over for now. The Nov. 17 meeting was expected to be the committee’s last for the year, and it’s being reported that the White House would have to resubmit Syed’s nomination again in the new year for him to be considered.

The Washington Post’s editorial board in July, slammed the GOP and cited the reasons for their resistance to Syed’s nomination. They first demanded answers on Covid relief loans to Syed’s business, but when it was established that “the company was entitled to the SBA loans, and it paid off the debt rather than pushing for it to be forgiven as was allowed,” they moved to something else. This time it was Syed’s association with an advocacy group that has been critical of Israel. This despite support from several prominent Jewish organizations. 

In July, the American Jewish Committee issued a statement supporting Syed. While the AJC “does not normally take positions on nominees requiring Senate confirmation,” the statement noted that “accusations around Dilawar Syed’s nomination based on his national origin or involvement in a Muslim advocacy organization are so base and unAmerican that AJC is compelled to speak out.” The statement noted that Syed “has been an active partner of the San Francisco Jewish community,” and has “traveled to Israel with the Jewish Community Relations Council of San Francisco and has been involved in other Muslim-Jewish dialogue efforts.”

The Post editorial board noted that “if Republicans believe Mr. Syed should not be confirmed, they should show up, vote against him and explain why they are doing so.” Adding that “they don’t want to be on the record voting against the appointment of someone so eminently qualified, who has been endorsed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Small Business Association, the Board notes that “they take the coward’s way out.”

Syed’s nomination is backed by more than 230 civic, government, higher education, and business leaders and organization, including former Republican New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, U.S. Black Chambers, the Small Business Investor Alliance, Small Business Roundtable, the Anti-Defamation League, and the American Jewish Congress.

As the Senate Small Business Committee conducted its proceedings on Nov. 17, the AAPI Victory Fund, and CAPAC Chair Rep. Judy Chu held a press conference on Capitol Hill in support of Syed, who is also the co-founder of the AAPI Victory Fund, the first Super PAC of its kind which focuses on mobilizing Asian American and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) eligible voters and moving them to the ballot box. 

“Republican Senators on the Small Business Committee have repeatedly blocked Syed by refusing to show up to committee meetings, providing shifting justifications for their obstruction that have nothing to do with Syed’s qualifications for the SBA role,” said an AAPI Victory Fund press release. “We are alarmed at how Syed’s national origin and civic work in the Muslim American community has been used against him.”

Shekar Narasimhan, co-founder of AAPI Victory Fund said the fight is about things that are now larger than just simply the SBA deputy administrator.” Joining him was Wa’el Alzayat, CEO of Emgage Action. “Dilawar has been subject to an unjust smear campaign on the basis of his Islamic faith and Pakistani heritage. We cannot let hate and bigotry win.”

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Several lawmakers and friends and supporters of Syed took to Twitter to express their frustration and anger over the GOP resistance. Among them are Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Munr Kazmir, a Pakistani American Jew who is a major GOP donor and human rights lawyer Qasim Rashid. “A good-faith look at Dilawar Syed- his qualifications and qualities- will reveal everything Republican Senators could want in leadership at the SBA,” Kazmir tweeted as he shared an article he wrote on Medium about supporting Syed and how the Senate Republicans’ refusal to move forward on him is hurting small businesses.

Rashid, in his tweet, summarized what the GOP did on Nov. 17. “The bigotry is the point,” he wrote. 

Schumer called Syed “a highly-experienced entrepreneur and coalition-builder.” And promised to “keep fighting the GOP’s hateful, bigoted campaign against him.”

(Top photo, courtesy American Jewish Congress)

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