President Joe Biden’s pick to lead the Office of Personnel Management, Kiran Ahuja, has made it one step further to confirmation, as the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee voted 7-5 to favorably report her nomination April 28.
Ahuja’s “no” votes came from senators who opposed her stances on recently controversial issues, such as the state of diversity training in the federal government.
“Her previous support of critical race theory is deeply concerning to me, and I think that’s true with a number of my colleagues. Our goal should be to promote healing and equality of opportunity,” said Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio.
“I believe diversity and inclusion in our workforce are very important but we need to approach those goals in a way that promotes teamwork and empowering people.”
The issue of diversity training was brought to the fore near the end of the Trump administration, when then-President Donald Trump ordered the federal government to halt all training that promoted theories of white privilege and embedded racism in the U.S.
Biden overturned those orders on his first day in office, and spoke on the campaign trail about the importance of diversity training for understanding the lived experiences of people from all walks of life.
During her confirmation hearing, Ahuja did not speak directly to specific training programs or on Trump’s decision to suspend them, but she did state that her experience with critical race theory trainings had found them beneficial for the organizations that conducted them.
Portman also disagreed with Ahuja’s stance on abortion coverage under federal health care:
“In her role as the lead on government employee benefits, including healthcare, I’m also concerned about Ms. Ahuja’s previous advocacy for ending the Hyde Amendment, which is a critical, bipartisan consensus which respects the Senate and the nation’s very different views on abortion and how we should use federal funds.”
Though Ahuja said that she personally disagrees with the Hyde Amendment, her role as OPM director would be to enforce existing law, which includes the Hyde Amendment.
Ahuja’s nomination now moves to full Senate consideration, where Democrats have the votes to confirm her, even if no Republicans decide to support her.
Jessie Bur covers the federal workforce and the changes most likely to impact government employees.