Absences force Senate to punt vote on Biden nominee

Absences force Senate to punt vote on Biden nominee
© Greg Nash

Absences forced Democrats on Tuesday to punt a vote on a Biden White House nominee, underscoring the razor-thin status of Democrats' majority. 

The Senate had been expected to hold an initial vote on Kiran Ahuja's nomination to be director of the Office of Personnel Management. If she had overcome the hurdle, a final vote to confirm her was expected for Tuesday afternoon. 

But Senate Majority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerSenate infrastructure talks spill over into rare Sunday session Senate holds sleepy Saturday session as negotiators finalize infrastructure deal An August ultimatum: No recess until redistricting reform is done MORE (D-N.Y.) announced shortly before the first vote that it was being delayed.  

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"We have two of our members who couldn't be here because of serious illnesses in their families. Therefore, we're going to delay the vote," Schumer said. 

Schumer didn't say which members were absent, but Sens. Gary PetersGary PetersBiden pays tribute to late Sen. Levin: 'Embodied the best of who we are' Former longtime Sen. Carl Levin dies at 87 GOP, Democrats battle over masks in House, Senate MORE (D-Mich.) and Cory BookerCory BookerWomen urge tech giants to innovate on office return Human rights can't be a sacrificial lamb for climate action Senate Democrats press administration on human rights abuses in Philippines MORE (D-N.J.) missed an earlier Senate vote on Tuesday.  

Democrats have a 50-50 majority in the Senate. That allows them to confirm nominations even if Republicans are unified in opposition, but only if they have all 50 of their members and Vice President Harris present to break a tie.  

Republicans have come out against Ahuja's nomination, including slow-walking the Senate's consideration on the floor. They have emphasized, in particular, her previous focus on critical race theory, an academic concept that argues racism is a social construct that heavily impacts legal systems and government policies. 

"The president's nominee has made statements expressing sympathy for the discredited ahistorical claims about our nation's origins that form the backbone of so-called critical race theory," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellBiden's bipartisan deal faces Senate gauntlet The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden sets new vaccine mandate as COVID-19 cases surge Democrats warn shrinking Biden's spending plan could backfire MORE (R-Ky.) said from the floor on Tuesday.