Some half-dozen Biden nominees from minority groups, including Indian-Americans Neera Tanden, Vivek Murthy, and Vanita Gupta are being thwarted in confirmation process that requires approval of majority of Senators in a chamber tied at 50-50.
Other nominees whose confirmation is being stymied include the nominee for interior secretary Deb Haaland, who is Native American, the nominee for health and human services, Xavier Becerra, who is Latino, and Kristen Clarke, who is a Black lawyer nominated to lead the Civil Rights Division at the Justice Department.
Grounds for denying them confirmation, which for decades has largely been a bipartisan process driven by consensus — with very occasional exceptions — range from their social media posts (“mean tweets” in the case of Tanden) to their liberal or “radical” record (in the case of Haaland).
The latest to be forced on the waitlist for confirmation is Vanita Gupta, a widely-admired civil rights attorney who is Biden’s pick to be associate attorney general at the Justice Department, who is now the target of a multimillion-dollar ad campaign from conservative groups who have labeled her “dangerous.” Gupta served as an assistant attorney general for civil rights and head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, but her return, which requires a confirmation, is been opposed by conservative groups unhappy with her previous prosecution of racist hate crimes and her efforts to reform police departments.
Lawmakers meanwhile are expected to hear the testimony of Vivek Murthy, Biden’s nominee for US Surgeon General, amid questions surrounding his earnings from companies such as Netflix, Airbnb, Estee Lauder and Carnival, the cruise ship company, who he advised on pandemic measures. But the real reason conservative groups oppose him is his advocacy of gun control measures and referring to rampant gun violence in the US as a public health issue.
Liberal activists backing Tanden are also pointing to reasons beyond her “mean tweets” for conservative Democrat Joe Manchin’s opposition to her nomination. She was reportedly critical of Manchin’s daughter, who is CEO of a pharma company that makes the emergency anti-allergy medication Epipen, for raising its price by 400%.
President Biden has not withdrawn any of the stalled nominations so far as his surrogates search for one or two moderate Republican votes to carry the nominees through in a deeply polarized Senate. White House chief of staff Ron Klain said on MSNBC on Wednesday they are “fighting our guts out” to get Neera Tanden confirmed, and if she is not confirmed, she could be given in a role that doesn’t require Senate confirmation.