The Republican campaign against Vanita Gupta, President Joe Biden’s nominee for associate attorney general, is “Beltway politics at its worst,” feels Milan Vaishnav of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
If confirmed as associate attorney general, Gupta, a civil rights attorney with a stellar record, would be the first Indian-American to hold the number three position in the United States Justice Department.
She was, however, grilled by Republicans at the Senate Judiciary Committee on March 9 — from her position on the racial bias, to defunding the police and decriminalization of small possession of all drugs, an editorial she wrote in 2012, and her tweets targeting Republicans.
Gupta, 46, defended herself stoutly.
“The Senate Republicans are trying to paint Gupta as some kind of leftwing radical who is far out of the mainstream,” Milan Vaishnav, , director and senior Fellow, South Asia Program, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, told indica News when approached for comment on the hearing.
“The truth is that she is a highly respected civil rights attorney and advocate who has devoted her life to public service and the cause of civil and human rights. In fact, a group of well-known conservatives are spending around $1 million in advertisements in support of her nomination.
“This is Beltway politics at its worst,” Vaishnav said.
Neil Makhija, executive director of Indian American advocacy and political action committee IMPACT, told indica News: “I would say the questions reflect partisan opposition from Republicans who are vying to fill the vacuum left by Trump’s defeat.
“We are immensely proud of Vanita Gupta. She has been a brilliant and fierce advocate for civil rights for decades and made national headlines for her work while she was still in her twenties,” Makhija said.
Could it be because Gupta is a woman of color? Is there a pattern in this, given that it comes on the heels of another Indian-American woman, Neera Tanden, being forced to step back from a high-profile administration role?
Asked that, Vaishnav said: “Of course sexism and double standards for a person who is a woman and a minority played a part. But Tanden is also viewed as an extremely partisan figure and so ran afoul of many prominent Republicans over the years. I think they used this opportunity for payback
“It is unfortunate but I do think she will be accommodated elsewhere in the administration,” said Vaishnav.
Makhija sounded confident on Gupta’s confirmation.
“She comes from a wonderful family with strong values of public service and humble beginnings. Her father, Raj Gupta, came to America with ‘eight dollars and a dream.’ We are so excited to see her serve this nation. She will make us all proud and restore integrity to the Justice Department,” Makhija said.
However, the attacks against Gupta keep in coming. Conservative groups have targeted her. Millions have been spent in ads against her. District Attorney Generals from several states have written a letter to Biden to withdraw her and not to appoint her because “she’s hostile to police.”
At the hearing, Gupta repeatedly said she would aggressively ensure that the Justice Department is independent from partisan influence. She also apologized for her tweets.
“I wish I could take it back, I can’t,” she said.
She in her statement: “My parents (Rajiv and Kamla Gupta) are proud immigrants from India, and they believe more than anything in the promise of America. Growing up, they taught me that loving this country brings with it the obligation to do the necessary work to perfect our Union.”
On March 9, soon after the hearing, People For the American Way (PFAW), a progressive advocacy group, declared its support for Gupta.
“We strongly urge the Senate to confirm Vanita Gupta. Her fight is our fight,” the PFAW said. “For years, the far-right has aimed attacks against women, people of color, and historically marginalized communities, and today she stood up to those attacks as Republican senators repeatedly distorted her record.”