Kamala Harris tiebreaking vote helped Ahuja become director of OPM


The US Senate on Tuesday, June 22, voted to confirm Indian American Kiran Ahuja to be the director of the Office of Personnel Management (OPM).

The decision was tied 50-50 party-line vote with Vice President Kamala Harris providing the tiebreaking 51st vote in Ahuja’s favor.

Ahuja is the first Indian American to head the Office of Personnel Management and will be responsible for future hirings by the government which is seeking to be more diverse.

Born in India and raised in the USA, Kiran Ahuja, is the CEO of Philanthropy Northwest, a non-profit based in Seattle that works across six states. She comes from a family of immigrants and has moved to the US when she was two years of age.

Ahuja’s father was a psychiatrist who worked at the Southern rural hospitals and also set up a clinic in Georgia for the underserved communities. It was with her mother working in the flea market and the experiences there she first realized the discrimination she could face because of her skin color.

Republicans were staunchly opposed to Ahuja’s nomination, citing her ties to critical race theory through her nonprofit organization Philanthropy Northwest. Notably, Ahuja hosted critical race theory and anti-racism activist Ibram X. Kendi for an event with Philanthropy Northwest

U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., was one of the Republicans most fervently opposed to Ahuja’s confirmation. He lambasted Ahuja and critical race theory in a floor speech Tuesday, warning that she could use her post as essentially the head human resources officer for the federal government to promote critical race theory.

“They think that all Americans are either oppressors or oppressed,” Hawley said of those who subscribe to critical race theory. “In our world-class military, these critics see a vehicle for discrimination. … They pit Whiteness and Blackness against each other in a manner that reduces every American no matter their character or their creed to their racial identity alone.”

Ahuja has on multiple occasions spoken out against racism and especially during the tenure of former President Donald Trump. She, in 2019 in an article in Chronicle of Philanthropy, spoke in favor of the four women of color in the Congress.

She called upon people, organizations and philanthropists to speak about such racism even if the perpetrator is the president. She has also been known to call the Trump administration “white supremacists”.

Ahuja earned early opposition from moderate Republican Sens. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, and Rob Portman, R-Ohio, who voted against her in the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee (HSGAC) in April.

“Her previous support of critical race theory is deeply concerning to me and I think that’s true with a number of my colleagues,” Portman said at the markup for Ahuja’s nomination.

However, she had the back of Democrats who stuck together to support Ahuja, who the White House has lauded as “a qualified, experienced and dedicated public servant who we are looking forward to leading the Office of Personnel Management in its work protecting the safety of the workforce, empowering federal employees, and building a federal workforce that looks like America.”