The Senate on Tuesday voted to advance the nomination of Kiran Ahuja to be the director of the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) by a 50-50 party-line vote, setting up a final confirmation vote later today that will likely succeed.
Vice President Harris broke the tie on the vote to allow it to pass.
Republicans were staunchly opposed to Ahuja’s nomination, citing her ties to critical race theory through her nonprofit organization Philanthropy Northwest. Notably, Ahuja hosted critical race theory and anti-racism activist Ibram X. Kendi for an event with Philanthropy Northwest.
Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., is one of the Republicans most fervently opposed to Ahuja’s confirmation. He lambasted Ahuja and critical race theory in a floor speech Tuesday, warning that she could bring use her post as essentially the head human resources officer for the federal government to promote critical race theory.
“They think that all Americans are either oppressors or oppressed,” Hawley said of those who subscribe to critical race theory. “In our world-class military, these critics see a vehicle for discrimination… They pit whiteness and blackness against each other in a manner that reduces every American no matter their character or their creed to their racial identity alone.”
“What we cannot allow is our federal government to affirm and sanction and advocate this critical race theory. We cannot allow the United States of America, the greatest nation on earth, to legitimize a new era of racial engineering,” he said.
“I’m concerned that Ms. Ahija is a disciple of radical critical theorists. She has frequently promoted Dr. Kendi. She called him a thought leader,” Hawley said. “She declared that we must do everything in our collective power to realize Dr. Kendi’s vision for America.”
Ahuja earned early opposition from moderate Republican Sens. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, and Rob Portman, R-Ohio, who voted against her in the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee (HSGAC) in April.
“Her previous support of critical race theory is deeply concerning to me and I think that’s true with a number of my colleagues,” Portman said at the markup for Ahuja’s nomination.
But Democrats stuck together to support Ahuja, who the White House has lauded as “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.”
Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Mark Kelly, D-Ariz., stayed silent on the Ahuja nomination until the last minute, before siding with their party and President Biden.
Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and a handful of other moderate Republicans also held off weighing in on the nomination until Tuesday. But they eventually sided joined their party in opposing the Ahuja, following the lead of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.
“This is the position responsible for making hiring, payroll and training decisions that affect millions of federal employees,” McConnell said last week. “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.'”