Republicans on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affair Committee are delaying the confirmation of Kiran Ahuja, President Joe Biden’s nominee for director of the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), citing her support for critical race theory (CRT) training and her stance on abortion.
Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), has been the most vocal about opposing Ahuja’s nomination because of her support for CRT-type training, which Hawley and other Republicans say are divisive. The opposition from the GOP senators has slowed the confirmation process, which will now require a debate of her nomination on the Senate floor.
Proponents of CRT say it seeks to undo “systemic racism” in the United States while opponents of the quasi-Marxist theory say it promotes anti-American values and is divisive.
Kelli Ford, Hawley’s communications director, on Tuesday said Ahuja’s nomination “merits scrutiny.”
“Biden OPM pick Kiran Ahuja’s history promoting radical critical race theorist merits scrutiny, especially in light of her nomination to a role that would allow her to reinstate race-based training sessions throughout the entire federal government,” Ford said in a statement on Twitter.
Meanwhile, the White House defended Ahuja’s nomination.
“Kiran Ahuja is 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,” White House deputy press secretary Chris Meagher told CNN.
The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee advanced Ahuja’s nomination by a slim 7-5 vote along party lines in late April, with no GOP members voting for her. Ranking Member Rob Portman (R-Ohio) said he is concerned about her support for CRT and her support for the federal government funding abortions.
“Our goal should be to promote healing and equality of opportunity, and 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. And in her role as the leader on government employee benefits, including health care, I’m also concerned about her previous advocacy for ending the Hyde Amendment,” Portman said.
If Ahuja is confirmed to lead the OPM, she would have the power to decide human resource initiatives and personnel policy for thousands of federal employees, including requiring CRT-type training.
During the April confirmation hearing for Ahuja, Hawley expressed concerns about her past advocacy of the writings of Dr. Ibram X. Kendi, an “antiracist activist” and advocate for the CRT model.
Kendi, in a September 2020 interview with The Atlantic, said if CRT and the teaching of “what really happened in history” cause people to hate the United States, then so be it.
“We need to rid the country of those racist policies structures and systems and replace them with more anti-racist policies and structures and systems. In other words, it is not enough to just be aware, we must then take action so that we can transform this country,” Kendi told The Atlantic.
During the confirmation hearing in April, Hawley pressed Ahuja on her views on training based on CRT, and at one point asked the nominee if she agreed with Kendi that the election of former President Donald Trump was “racist progress” and if she views the United States as a systemically racist country.
“I do understand the role of this position, I very much take that very seriously and upholding merit system principles, I also understand the value of, no one should be discriminated based on their race, I was a former civil rights lawyer and I take that very seriously. I think we all uphold what Martin Luther King Jr. said which is we should be judged by the content of our character, and not the color of our skin, and that’s the approach that I’ve taken,” she replied.
According to Legal Insurrection Foundation’s criticalrace.org website, which advocates for the teaching of CRT, they say that this model is not based on the “traditional civil rights movement which sought to provide equal opportunity and dignity without regard to race” but rather an outgrowth of European Marxist theory.
“CRT, and the training to implement it is a radical ideology that focuses on race as the key to understanding society, and objectifies people based on race,” it states.