Harris casts tiebreaking vote to confirm OPM nominee
Vice President Harris returned to the Senate chamber on Tuesday to cast a tiebreaking vote, confirming President Biden’s nominee for the director of the Office of Personnel Management (OPM).
Senators voted 50-50 along party lines to confirm Kiran Ahuja as OPM director after her confirmation was held up by Senate Republicans over her support for abortion rights and focus on critical race theory.
Harris ultimately sealed the confirmation, stating, “On this vote, the ‘yeas’ are 50 [and] the ‘nays’ are 50. The Senate being equally and evenly divided, the vice president votes in the affirmative. The nomination is confirmed … and the president will immediately be notified of the Senate’s action.”
Earlier on Tuesday, Harris cast the tiebreaking vote to advance Ahuja’s nomination after the chamber was again split 50-50 along party lines.
Ahuja, who previously served as chief of staff at OPM under the Obama administration and worked in the Obama White House as executive director of the Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, will be the 13th OPM director. She was nominated for the role in February.
The tiebreaking vote was Harris’s fourth overall as vice president and second for a Biden nominee.
In April, Harris broke a tie to advance Colin Kahl’s nomination to be under secretary of Defense for policy, sparking a final vote in the full chamber.
Ahuja’s confirmation comes after an effort by Senate Republicans, spearheaded by Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), to hold up her confirmation.
Hawley, during Ahuja’s confirmation hearing, said he was concerned that the then-nominee would integrate critical race theory into federal directives.
Critical race theory is an academic concept that argues racism is a social construct that influences and is embedded in U.S. legal systems and government policies.
He focused extensively on Ahuja’s support of Boston University professor Ibram X. Kendi, whose work has been under scrutiny by conservatives for appearing to advance critical race theory, according to The Washington Post.
Other lawmakers said they were opposed to Ahuja because of her support for abortion rights.
The Senate was scheduled to hold a preliminary vote on Ahuja’s nomination last week, but Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) ultimately delayed the vote because two Democrats were unable to be present on the floor “because of serious illnesses in their families.”
Schumer did not reveal which members were absent, but Sens. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.) both missed an early vote in the Senate that day.
The delay underscored the razor-thin majority in the Senate, where no vote from either party can be spared.
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