Republicans are stonewalling the confirmation of Muslim-American tech entrepreneur Dilawar Syed. Democrats have a theory as to why.
Defenders of obstructionist Republican Senators are running out of excuses as fast as Senate Republicans are running out of reasons to obstruct Biden’s SBA nominee Dilawar Syed.
Republicans have been gorging themselves on a moveable feast of goalposts since March, basing their objections to Mr. Syed around any number of nebulous accusations. That most of these have fallen along hot-button cultural lines reveals a great deal about what’s really behind this politically-motivated stonewall.
None of the objections have amounted to much, but that hasn’t stopped Republican Senators from coming up with new and novel ways to harass Dilawar Syed while preventing small business owners from getting all the COVID-19 relief funds they need from the SBA.
After other lines of bad-faith inquiry collapsed, including attempts to malign Dilawar Syed as someone with a bias against Israel and insinuations that Mr. Syed’s birthplace of Pakistan is somehow a strike against him, Republicans latched onto COVID-19 relief loans made to Planned Parenthood.
Raising the specter of abortion might be good for political campaigns, but tying old SBA loans to the nomination of Dilawar Syed- who of course had nothing to do with past SBA loans to Planned Parenthood or to anyone else- is disingenuous at best, obstructionist at middling, and outright discrimination at worst.
The question is, if Dilawar Syed is such an unsuitable candidate as to be denied even a quorum, why don’t Republicans just show up and vote no?
“If Republicans believe Mr. Syed should not be confirmed,” wrote the Washington Post editorial board in October, “they should show up, vote against him and explain why they are doing so.”
In the month since the Post weighed in, nothing has changed. Five times now, Republicans have taken the unprecedented, and unprecedentedly unprofessional, step of denying a quorum and preventing a vote on Dilawar Syed.
“He knows what it takes to run a biz, is exceptionally qualified, and brings an important voice to an underrepresented community,” Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) wrote on Twitter a month ago. “GOP blocking of this vote has the stench of religious bigotry.”
It is a charge that Republicans hotly deny. And yet Silicon Valley entrepreneur Dilawar Syed would, if confirmed, become the highest-ranking Muslim-American in the Biden Administration, and in history, which makes accusations of religious bias extremely sticky.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is very clear about religious discrimination in the workplace:
“Religious discrimination involves treating a person (an applicant or employee) unfavorably because of his or her religious beliefs. The law protects not only people who belong to traditional, organized religions, such as Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, and Judaism, but also others who have sincerely held religious, ethical or moral beliefs.”
“The law forbids discrimination when it comes to any aspect of employment, including hiring, firing, pay, job assignments, promotions, layoff, training, fringe benefits, and any other term or condition of employment,” according to the EEOC.
Nor is the EEOC at all obscure as it pertains to background checks, security clearance and employment history verification.
“In general, an employer may adopt security requirements for its employees or applicants, provided they are adopted for nondiscriminatory reasons and are applied in a nondiscriminatory manner. For example, an employer may not require Muslim applicants to undergo a background investigation or more extensive security procedures because of their religion without imposing the same requirements on similarly situated applicants who are non-Muslim.”
Senate Republicans need not take the EOCC’s word for it; there are plenty of legal precedents, too, and recent ones. From 2010–2015, the EOCC, “filed 68 lawsuits involving claims of religious discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.”
It certainly seems as if Senate Republicans are treating Dilawar Syed differently- and more disrespectfully- than other Biden nominees. Mr. Syed is a successful, well-established member of the California business community; a job creator and an American success story. He has even served in the public sector before- during the Obama Administration and through the California Governor’s office.
Most people agree he is imminently qualified for the SBA.
If so, why won’t obstructionist Senate Republicans do their jobs?
If not, why won’t obstructionist Senate Republicans do their jobs?
At least with a no vote the process could move forward with a new candidate.
“Every day Republicans fail to do their jobs and block him from serving during this critical time of recovery is a huge missed opportunity for our hardworking small business owners,” Senator Tammy Duckworth said of Dilawar Syed on December 2.
Sen. Duckworth has a good point; while small business owners are confronting the terrors of an especially trying holiday season, Senate Republicans are holding up a qualified SBA leadership nominee with the kind of experience many struggling entrepreneurs could really use right now.
It is time for Senate Republicans to put petty politics aside and show up to vote on Mr. Syed.
If their motivations are no more nefarious than that- just a little good old-fashioned Capitol Hill theatre- moving on should be no problem. Has to happen sometime. After all, even the cleverest political gambit, which this certainly isn’t, has to end eventually.
On the other hand, more sinister motivations might not be as easy to dislodge.
(contributing writer, Brooke Bell)