- Several Biden nominations, including several South Asian Americans, have been stalled due to GOP resistance. The Los Angeles Times reported how Mayor Eric Garcetti, Biden’s nomination for U.S. Ambassador to India, is in “confirmation purgatory.”
The Washington Post’s editorial board has slammed the Senate Republicans for blocking Dilawar Syed’s confirmation as deputy administrator of the Small Business Administration. President Biden nominated Syed to SBA’s No. 2 post in March.
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.
The Post notes that Syed, who “came to this country 30 years ago from Pakistan in pursuit of education and opportunity, has “built a successful career as an entrepreneur, starting and running companies specializing in software, health care and artificial intelligence.” If confirmed, he would be the highest-ranking Muslim in government.
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. He 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.
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. Earlier on June 16, the committee “favorably voted his nomination out of committee by a voice vote,” the Post editorial board writes. “But the parliamentarian ruled a roll call was required, and Republicans have repeatedly refused to show up for votes, denying the evenly split committee the needed quorum.”
The ope-ed further noted that while Republican Sens. Joni Ernst of Iowa and Todd C. Young of Indiana, “initially voted to advance Mr. Syed’s nomination,” but the Post didn’t get an affirmative response from either their offices. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky is the ranking Republican on the committee.
The Post editorial board cites the reasons for the Republican 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.
This 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 notes 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.”
In an earlier op-ed in the Post, columnist Paul Waldman admonished the GOP for “ginning up fake controversies around President Biden’s nominees to fill out the administration. “Syed is not some kind of lefty activist; his nomination was endorsed by business groups,” Waldman wrote.
After his July op-ed, the AAPI Victory Fund issued a statement supporting it 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.”
Several Biden nominations, including many South Asian Americans, have been stalled due to GOP resistance. Earlier this month, the Los Angeles Times reported how Mayor Eric Garcetti, Biden’s nomination for U.S. Ambassador to India, is in “confirmation purgatory,” as the president’s nominations stall. “Nearly three months after Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti was picked by President Biden to be U.S. ambassador to India, it is unclear when the Senate might take up his nomination — creating a limbo at City Hall with no end in sight,” the report said. Noting that the “confirmation process for presidential appointments is notoriously slow,” the report said that “Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and other Senate Republicans have been holding up Biden’s nominees, creating a bottleneck of applications on Capitol Hill.”
Late last month, the Senate voted 50-48 along party lines on Sept. 30, to confirm Rohit Chopra as head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, nearly nine months after he was nominated earlier this year. Chopra received resistance from the GOP, “who said he would wield the bureau’s sweeping powers to pursue an anti-business agenda,” The New York Times reported. During Chopra’s confirmation on Sept. 30, Sen. Patrick J. Toomey of Pennsylvania, the ranking Republican on the Banking Committee, said he feared Chopra would return the bureau to “the lawless, overreaching, highly politicized agency it was during the Obama administration,” the Times report said. According to The Washington Post, progressives see Chopra, “as an experienced and headstrong rulemaker who is not afraid to take a hard line against big banks,” while the conservatives “say they fear he will steer the bureau toward becoming an unaccountable regulatory body with an anti-business agenda.”
In June, 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.
However, Chopra, 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.