Senate Republicans delaying Biden OPM nominee’s confirmation
Senate Republicans are holding up the confirmation for President Biden’s nominee for director of the Office of Personnel Management, Kiran Ahuja, over her support for abortion rights and focus on critical race theory.
Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) is leading the pushback against Ahuja’s swift confirmation, The Washington Post reports. During her confirmation hearing, which was paired with three other nominees, Hawley said he worried that she would incorporate critical race theory into federal directives.
Critical race theory is an academic concept that argues racism is a social construct that heavily impacts legal systems and government policies.
According to the Post, Hawley focused heavily on Ahuja’s support of Boston University professor Ibram X. Kendi, whose work has come under fire by conservatives for seemingly advancing critical race theory. Ahuja, 49, had previously shared a link to an article by Kendi in which he claimed former President Trump’s election was an example of white supremacy.
“Do you agree that the election of Donald Trump was an example of ‘racist progress’ in this country?” Hawley asked Ahuja.
“No, I can’t speak to that particular position that Dr. Kendi has made,” Ahuja responded. “I would not make those type of statements, no.”
Hawley pressed Ahuja further, asking her if she believes the U.S. is a systemically racist country.
“I’m a big believer that we seek to ensure that everyone has an equal opportunity,” she said. “I understand and appreciate the historical challenges many individuals have experienced, based on their race and ethnicity.”
The Post notes that it is unclear what role Ahuja would play in diversity training if she is confirmed. As director, she may oversee the agency’s curriculum, though it varies from office to office.
Other lawmakers stated that they would not vote for Ahuja due to her support of abortion rights and asked her if she would support the Hyde Amendment, a measure that prevents federal funds from paying for abortions, which Biden excluded from his recently released budget proposal.
“The Hyde Amendment is the law of the land, and I will follow the law,” Ahuja said during the hearing.
“Kiran Ahuja is a qualified, experienced, and dedicated public servant who we are looking forward to leading the Office of Personnel Management in its work protecting the safety of the workforce, empowering federal employees, and building a federal workforce that looks like America,” deputy White House press secretary Chris Meagher told the Post.
Just over 50 of Biden’s nominees have been confirmed by the Senate so far, lagging behind that of his predecessors. The Wall Street Journal pointed out that by May of their terms, former Presidents Obama, Clinton and George W. Bush had 145, 151 and 126 confirmations, respectively. However, the Journal noted that Trump in comparison had 42 Senate confirmations by this same time period in his term.