(RNS) — The Republican members of the Senate’s Small Business Committee have failed to attend confirmation hearings for Dilawar Syed, the Biden administration’s pick to be the deputy administrator of the Small Business Administration.
Syed’s first confirmation hearing was scheduled for April 12, but on that day and three subsequent dates — the latest on Sept. 21— the Republicans have effectively boycotted the nominee, who, if confirmed, would be the highest-ranking Muslim in the administration.
Syed, a California businessman, has reportedly drawn the ire of some congressional Republicans for his involvement in a Muslim American organization critical of Israel. A coterie of faith-based groups, including African American Ministers In Action, Sojourners, the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association and the National Council of Churches, have also accused the GOP of “anti-Muslim animus” for its opposition to Syed.
Asked for comment on his situation, Syed referred Religion News Service to the White House.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other business groups have supported Syed’s candidacy, as have a number of religious organizations, including several Jewish groups. The American Jewish Committee deplored the hold-up on his nomination. “His national origin or his involvement in a Muslim American advocacy organization are not and should not be disqualifying factors,” the AJC said in a statement.
Syed, who immigrated to the United States from Pakistan, was a member of the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders under President Obama and has served in various roles affiliated with the Small Business Administration.
In California, Syed was the founding chair of the California Entrepreneurship Task Force in the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development. He has headed multiple technology-related companies and was directly involved in response to the COVID-19 pandemic as part of the Silicon Valley Recovery Roundtable. Until August he was the CEO of Lumiata, a company that seeks to find artificial intelligence-driven solutions to health care challenges.
Deputy Press Secretary Christopher Meagher in an email said, “During this critical moment for Main Street businesses across America, the GOP members of the Small Business Committee will not do their jobs — show up to the committee, hold an up-or-down vote on Syed’s nomination, and get back to work on behalf of our nation’s small businesses.”
The Biden administration has been prolific in its nomination of political appointees, but only a small number have so far been approved. As of Sept. 17, of the last four presidents, only former President George W. Bush had nominated more individuals for office (498) than the Biden administration (465). Yet, in an example of the partisan nature of our times, only President Trump had fewer confirmed (132) than Biden (150).