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AAPI Victory Fund Rebukes Republican Opposition to Pakistani American Dilawar Syed’s Confirmation

AAPI Victory Fund Rebukes Republican Opposition to Pakistani American Dilawar Syed’s Confirmation

  • Influential Washington Post columnist Paul Waldman also admonishes the Republicans for obstructing Biden’s nominees, including his choice for deputy administrator of Small Business Administration.

An op-ed in The Washington Post has admonished the GOP for “ginning up fake controversies around President Biden’s nominees to fill out the administration,” including that of Dilawar Syed, to be deputy administrator of the Small Business 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.

Syed 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.

“Syed is not some kind of lefty activist; his nomination was endorsed by business groups,” Post columnist Paul Waldman writes. “But Republicans were so determined to derail his nomination that last week they boycotted a meeting of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship to deny a quorum and prevent a vote.”

On July 15, the Republicans boycotted a vote on Syed’s nomination, preventing the committee from “achieving the quorum needed to proceed with a vote on the nomination,” said a press release issued by the Senate Committee on Small Business and entrepreneurship.

Syed 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. 

The AAPI Victory Fund issued a statement supporting the Post op-ed and reprimanding the Republicans for delaying Syed’s confirmation. “Dilawar Syed is an exemplary public servant whose dedication to the small business community precedes him,” AAPI Victory Fund Chair Shekar Narasimhan in a statement. “Mr. Syed has dedicated his career to advocating for diverse — and often marginalized — communities that make tremendous contributions to the American economy. Throughout decades of outstanding leadership, Mr. Syed has become an indispensable role model for the AAPI community by proving that all levels of achievement are possible for AAPIs in America.”

Waldman says Republicans justify their resistance to Syed as he used to serve on the board Emgage Action, “a Muslim American group that has been critical of Israeli government policy.” 

Citing a press release from Sen. Josh Hawley, demanding that Syed “renounce his anti-semitic rhetoric,” Waldman says, the “Republicans are using that to insinuate that he’s somehow complicit in antisemitism, a charge ricocheting across far-right and Islamophobic websites.” However, he notes that “a bevy of Jewish groups have rallied to Syed’s defense and condemned the attacks against him.” 

Earlier this month, 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.”

Answering the million-dollar question as to why do Republicans go through these exercises, Waldman observes that “trying to stop a nominee is the end in itself.” He continues: “It isn’t as though if they managed to kill Syed’s nomination, the next person Biden picked to be deputy administrator of the SBA would institute more conservative policies.”

The Post opinion piece talks about the confirmation hearing by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee for Tracy Stone-Manning, Biden’s nominee to lead the Bureau of Land Management. “Again and again, we’ve seen this pattern,” Waldman writes. “Biden nominates a mainstream Democrat with all the requisite qualifications and reputation. Republicans sift through the nominee’s past to find something to push culture-war buttons among their base. Every last Republican votes against the nominee. But since Democrats stick together too, the nomination succeeds.”

See Also

Last month, Vice President Kamala Devi Harris had to cast a tie-breaking 51st vote to confirm Kiran Ahuja as the director of the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), making her the first South Asian American to lead the independent federal agency. Ahuja faced staunch opposition from the GOP because of her ties to critical race theory through her nonprofit organization Philanthropy Northwest, a network of nonprofit organizations in the Pacific Northwest.

 Leading the Republican resistance was Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.). He first raised concerns with Ahuja’s nomination to lead OPM and her support for radical critical race theorists as “thought leaders.” Hawley was referring to critical race theory and anti-racism activist Ibram X. Kendi, whom Ahuja had hosted for an event at Philanthropy Northwest. 

Ahuja and Syed are not the only South Asian American nominees to face resistance from the GOP. A classic example of senatorial double standards is Neera Tanden, who withdrew her nomination to lead the Office of Budget and Management. Ever since Biden had nominated her, Republicans and a few Democrats began attacking her for what has been portrayed as intemperate tweets, even as supporters of Tanden pointed out the hypocrisy of these very people who looked the other way when President Trump, for four full years, relentlessly made far worse comments, not to mention outright lies and smears.

Similarly, Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta faced significant resistance from GOP senators for her views on defunding the police and decriminalizing possession of all illegal drugs. Republicans in the Senate Judiciary Committee accused her of being a liar and hyper-partisan and not fit to serve in the DOJ. She was confirmed in April with 51-49. Harris’ tie-breaking vote wasn’t necessary as Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) supported Gupta and was the lone Republican to vote for the confirmation. 

And in the end, as Waldman puts it: “It’s all for show — and even if almost none of their constituents notice, just making life difficult for the Biden administration, and leaving agencies without confirmed leadership so they run a little less efficiently, is better than nothing.”

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