Recess Appointment for Feldblum

Openly lesbian nominee's appointment to EEOC had been held up in Senate, now one of 15 recess appointments made by Obama

On Saturday afternoon, March 27, the White House announced the recess appointments of 15 administration nominees, including openly lesbian Georgetown University Law Center professor Chai Feldblum to be a commissioner on the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Feldblum
Feldblum
(Photo by File Photo)

Feldblum was nominated by President Barack Obama on Sept. 14, 2009, more than six months ago. Her confirmation hearing was held two months later, on Nov. 19, and her nomination received a favorable vote from the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions on Dec. 10.

Earlier this month, however, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid confirmed that a hold was being placed on all of the President’s EEOC nominees, keeping them from receiving a vote of the full Senate.

Obama granted a recess appointment today to all the EEOC nominees, including his nominee to serve as chair of the Commission, Jacqueline A. Berrien. Berrien, according to the White House, has served as the associate director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund since September 2004.

In announcing the move, Obama said in a statement, ”The United States

Following a Saturday afternoon announcement from the White House, Georgetown University Law Center professor Chai Feldblum – a longstanding leader in the D.C. civil-rights community – will take her place as the first openly LGBT commissioner of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Feldblum, who President Barack Obama has given a recess appointment to the position, has a significant history with civil-rights legislation in Washington. She worked closely with the Senate on drafting the Americans with Disabilities Act and worked with Congress and LGBT organizations in the crafting of and revisions to the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, currently before Congress.

As Tony Varona, a law professor at American University’s Washington College of Law who has worked with Feldblum on legislation for years said on Saturday, “Chai’s appointment to the EEOC is wonderful news both for the LGBT community, as well as the broader civil-rights and public-interest community.

“She really combines so deftly a brilliant legal mind with a deep understanding of how Washington works, both legislatively and regulatorily,” he said. “That combination of skills will serve the Obama administration and the community the EEOC serves very well.”

Feldblum’s legislative expertise was recognized at Georgetown, where she founded the Federal Legislation and Administrative Clinic at the law school.

David Smith, the senior vice president for programs at the Human Rights Campaign, celebrated the move, writing to Metro Weekly, “As a pioneer of the ADA and a preeminent authority on employment law, nobody was more qualified to serve on the EEOC.”

Tobias Wolff, a professor of law at the University of Pennsylvania Law School and LGBT policy chair for Obama’s presidential campaign, wrote to Metro Weekly that Feldblum’s “expertise on LGBT discrimination will be invaluable and reminds us of the importance of prompt congressional passage” of ENDA.

Feldblum and 14 other nominees for administration and agency positions are the first of Obama’s nominees to be given recess appointments. Presidents can give such appointments, which are temporary, whenever Congress is in recess, but they often are used when Congress refuses to act on a nomination or to avoid a political fight on a nomination.

Feldblum was nominated by the president on Sept. 14, 2009, more than six months ago. Her confirmation hearing was held two months later, on Nov. 19, and her nomination received a favorable vote from the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions on Dec. 10.

In early March, however, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) confirmed that a hold was being placed on all of the president’s EEOC nominees, keeping them from receiving a vote of the full Senate.

Obama granted a recess appointment on March 27 to all the EEOC nominees, including his nominee to serve as chair of the commission, Jacqueline A. Berrien. Berrien, according to the White House, has served as the associate director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund since September 2004.

In announcing the move, Obama said in a statement, “The United States Senate has the responsibility to approve or disapprove of my nominees.  But if, in the interest of scoring political points, Republicans in the Senate refuse to exercise that responsibility, I must act in the interest of the American people and exercise my authority to fill these positions on an interim basis.”

Of the Senate holds that led to last Saturday’s recess appointment, HRC’s Smith said, “It’s a shame that her nomination was stymied to score political points with the far right. The president should be applauded for moving beyond the obstructionist tactics of a few Senators.”

Wolff said of the move, “The president has chosen well, and he is to be commended for using his constitutional recess appointment power to move this distinguished nominee past the obstruction that the Party of No has been offering.”

A recess appointment such as this will last until the end of the next session of Congress. The White House has announced, however, that the nominees will remain in the Senate for confirmation by the regular procedures.

Senate has the responsibility to approve or disapprove of my nominees. But if, in the interest of scoring political points, Republicans in the Senate refuse to exercise that responsibility, I must act in the interest of the American people and exercise my authority to fill these positions on an interim basis.”

Feldblum has a significant history with civil rights legislation in Washington, D.C., having worked closely with the Senate on drafting the Americans with Disabilities Act and worked with Congress and LGBT organization in the crafting of and revisions to the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, currently before Congress.

As Tony Varona, a law professor at American University’s Washington College of Law said on Saturday, ”Chai’s appointment to the EEOC is wonderful news both for the LGBT community, as well as the broader civil rights and public interest community.

”She really combines so deftly a brilliant legal mind with a deep understanding of how Washington works, both legislatively and regulatorily,” he said. ”That combination of skills will serve the Obama administration and the community the EEOC serves very well.”

Feldblum’s legislative expertise was recognized at Georgetown, where she founded the Federal Legislation and Administrative Clinic at the law school.

David Smith, the senior vice president for programs at the Human Rights Campaign, celebrated the move, writing to Metro Weekly, ”As a pioneer of the ADA and a preeminent authority on employment law, nobody was more qualified to serve on the EEOC.

Of the Senate holds that led to today’s recess appointment, Smith added, ”It’s a shame that her nomination was stymied to score political points with the far right. The President should be applauded for moving beyond the obstructionist tactics of a few Senators.”

Tobias Wolff, a professor of law at the University of Pennsylvania Law School and LGBT policy chair for Obama’s presidential campaign, wrote to Metro Weekly, ”[Feldblum’s] expertise on LGBT discrimination will be invaluable and reminds us of the importance of prompt congressional passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

”The president has chosen well,” he added, ”and he is to be commended for using his constitutional recess appointment power to move this distinguished nominee past the obstruction that the Party of No has been offering.”

A recess appointment such as that issued by the president today will last until the end of the next session of Congress. The White House announced today, however, that the nominees will remain in the Senate for confirmation by the regular procedures.

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