On Mar. 3, President Joe Biden nominated Dilawar Syed to serve as Deputy Administrator to the Small Business Administration (SBA). For months, however, GOP senators have refused to allow a committee vote for Syed. They have already boycotted the vote three times thus far. Consequently, Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) attempted to ask Senate for unanimous consent to move forward on Syed.
However, on Wednesday Sept. 29, Sen. Rand Paul objected, leaving Syed’s nomination in limbo once again. If confirmed, Syed would become the highest-ranking Muslim administration official in American history.
Dilawar Syed is the president and CEO of Lumiata, a health care analytics company. He has stepped into public service roles both in California and at the federal level. Syed previously led engagement with small business after the passage of the 2009 stimulus package under the Obama Administration. Despite his qualifications, Syed’s heritage has been at the source of the vote’s delay.
Ben Cardin, who chairs the Senate committee, noted that Republicans originally objected to Syed on loans he took out as a small-business owner. When the loans proved to be a non-issue, the Republicans accused Syed of being anti-Israel due to his work with Emgage USA, a group that focuses on increasing Muslim American political engagement.
On June 30, eight of the 10 GOP senators on the committee wrote a letter to Cardin, saying that Syed’s “vocally anti-Israel” efforts would “jeopardize small businesses with close ties to Israeli companies or small businesses owned by Jewish Americans.” The first line of the document noted that Syed was born in Pakistan, and the vast majority of the rest of it focused on “very partisan positions” from Emgage ― not anything that Syed actually said. Politico first reported on the memo’s existence in August.
In July, the American Jewish Committee released its own statement. While they do “not normally take positions” on nominees, the “accusations around Dilawar Syed’s nomination based on his national origin or involvement in a Muslim advocacy organization are so base and unamerican that AJC is compelled to speak out.”
At this time, the Republicans have backtracked. According to the HuffPost, the Republicans oppose filling the deputy SBA position on the until the Biden administration committed to taking back loans given to some Planned Parenthood affiliates under the Paycheck Protection Program. The loans, which were handed out during the Trump administration, were meant to help small businesses keep employees on their payrolls during the coronavirus pandemic.
Planned Parenthood’s affiliates are nonprofit organizations with leadership and funding structures that are separate from the national federation. On Wednesday on the Senate floor, Paul, the committee’s ranking member, said that Planned Parenthood is not a small-business.
In response, Cardin said, “The partisan, unnecessary and unconscionable inaction of our Republican colleagues shows no concern for the millions of small businesses still relying on SBA support to survive COVID-19 and rebuild their future and who would benefit greatly from having a confirmed deputy administrator to work on the day-to-day operations at the SBA.”
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