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This Reaction About Issues for Biden's Nominees Happens When You Prioritize Diversity

Anna Moneymaker/The New York Times via AP, Pool

President Joe Biden has arguably had some of the most controversial nominees to fill his cabinet and other positions needing Senate confirmation. It's reflected in the close votes of many of the confirmed picks, and that the president has had two nominees withdrawn, with it looking likely he'll have to withdraw another. Vice President Kamala Harris has even had to cast her tie breaking vote to get nominees confirmed. A notable exception was Attorney General Merrick Garland, who was confirmed in a vote of 70-30. But hey, at least he's picked a lot of women! Hooray for diversity! That's the angle that Laura Kelly has taken in a recent piece for The Hill.

"GOP holds on Biden nominees set back gains for women in top positions," Kelly complained in a piece from November 26.

Here's some excerpts worth highlighting:

The delays are particularly aggravating to advocates who have worked behind the scenes to help qualified women overcome barriers, both overt and unconscious, to achieve gender parity. 

The goal of equal representation doesn’t just benefit women, advocates say. Research shows that women's participation in conflict resolution yields more durable solutions and contributes to diversity of thought. 


Lindsay Rodman, executive director of The Leadership Council For Women In National Security (LCWINS), called the number of women who have been nominated so far “historic” and “a leap as compared to the natural progression that we were seeing.” 


Lack of prior government experience, as well as perceived disqualifiers like lobbying, connections to the defense industry, and even criticism of social media activity, has narrowed the field of potential candidates.

In March, Neera Tanden withdrew herself as Biden’s nominee for Office of Management and Budget amid opposition from Democratic and Republican senators largely for controversial tweets. 

Likewise, Republicans on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee have delayed a hearing for Biden’s nominee for Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Antisemitism, Deborah Lipstadt, pointing to tweets they say are problematic.

The disqualifying factors Kelly lists are pretty significant. Tanden irked a lot of senators, including and especially those she called out by name, with countless tweets of hers. For her to lead the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) would not be an insignificant role. She has since gone on to serve as an advisor to Biden and a White House staff secretary.

Perhaps most important of all, though, is that the goal of selecting nominees shouldn't necessarily amount of a "goal of equal representation," but rather selecting the best person for the position.

Kelly also references hold outs from Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Josh Hawley (R-MO):

Republican Sens. Ted Cruz (Texas) and Josh Hawley (Mo.) have placed holds on a number of Biden’s nominees. They say the holds are to demonstrate their objections to Biden’s policies, not specific people, but Democrats and some Republicans are growing frustrated over the slow pace of confirmations — and particularly what it means for women awaiting a vote.


For months Cruz has exercised holds on dozens of State Department nominees over his opposition to the Biden administration’s decision to waive sanctions on a Russian gas pipeline.

He called it a “ludicrous” argument when asked if he was concerned that he was standing in the way of improving gender parity in government. 

“If we want to play the silly game of calling everything a gender or racial bloc, then I’m acting to defend the women of Europe and the women of America from Russian military aggression – it’s an absurd argument but so is the argument you asked me about.”

Hawley has holds on at least four of the president's nominees, who happen to be all women. In response to a request for comment by The Hill his office reiterated he would maintain those holds "until there is some accountability from the administration for their disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan.”

He has called for the resignation of Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and national security adviser Jake Sullivan in exchange for lifting the holds, although he lifted his hold on Biden’s nominee for NATO, Julianne Smith, last week after securing a commitment that she would push for the alliance to increase its defense spending. 

Cruz hits the nail on the head when he calls it a "silly game" to be "calling everything a gender or racial bloc."

Yet that's not merely what the mainstream media but also the Biden administration aims to do. In June, when Biden was in North Carolina to encourage Americans to get vaccinated, he revealed that the "first executive order I signed was insisting that every one of my cabinet members focus on racial equity."

The White House has often touted the "historic" nature of its "diverse" nominees. Take for instance, Saule Omarova, Biden's particularly controversial nominee to head the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC). She's irked even Democrats, like Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Mark Warner (D-VA), and has said things such as she wants to "end banking as we know it." She'll likely have to be pulled. Yet, the White House, when responding to news reports that Omarova had been arrested in 1995 for "retail theft," focused in part on how it "supports this historic nomination" in a statement.


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