US Vice President Kamala Harris has cast her tie-breaking vote in the bitterly divided Senate to confirm the nomination of Indian-American Kiran Ahuja as the head of the Office of Personnel Management, a federal agency that manages the country’s more than two million civil servants.
An American lawyer and activist, Kiran Ahuja, 49, is the first Indian-American to serve in this top position in the US government. Kamala Harris announced to cast her vote in favour of Kiran Ahuja on Tuesday after the Senate vote on this resulted in 50-50 votes on party lines.
“The Senate being evenly divided, the Vice President votes in affirmative,” Kamala Harris said. With this, she has so far cast the 6th tie-breaking vote as the Vice President this year.
Senator Dianne Feinstein said Kiran Ahuja has more than two decades of experience in public service and the philanthropic sector, including a senior role in OPM under former president Barack Obama.
“She has a breadth of knowledge and experience that will serve her well in the role,” she said.
“In particular I’m looking forward to working with her to resolve a critical pay disparity issue between state and federal wildland firefighters. State firefighter salaries can be as much as double that of their federal counterparts, making it difficult to hire and retain skilled federal wildland firefighters,” she added.
Representing the view of the opposition Republicans, Senator James Lankford said he did not believe the head of HR of the federal government should be so outspoken in favour of abortion and pushing the need for critical race theory training.
“OPM has been plagued with paperwork backlogs, survivor benefit delays, cyber-security issues, and more. The leader of OPM should focus on addressing those issues, not divisive social justice policies and abortion,” he said.
Kiran Ahuja served as the Chief of Staff to the Director of the US Office of Personnel Management from 2015 to 2017. She currently serves as the CEO of Philanthropy Northwest, a regional network of philanthropic institutions.
She began her career as a civil rights lawyer at the US Department of Justice, litigating school desegregation cases, and filing the department’s first student racial harassment case. From 2003 to 2008, Kiran Ahuja served as the founding executive director of the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum, an advocacy and membership organisation.
During the Obama-Biden Administration, she spent six years as executive director of the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, leading efforts to increase access to federal services, resources, and programs for underserved Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs).
Kiran Ahuja grew up in Savannah, Georgia, as a young Indian immigrant in the wake of the civil rights era, and earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from Spelman College and a law degree from the University of Georgia.
“Throughout her career, Kiran Ahuja has built a tremendous record of championing federal personnel matters & remains a strong advocate for women of color,” said Senator Raphael Warnock.