The U.S. Senate voted to give the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission a full leadership panel for the first time during the Trump administration, confirming Democratic nominee and civil rights lawyer Jocelyn Samuels.
The full chamber signed off on Samuels by a 54-42 vote Wednesday, a day after confirming Republicans Andrea Lucas and Keith Sonderling.
Samuels, who most recently led a California think tank focused on sexual orientation and gender-identity policy, becomes the second Democrat on the workplace civil rights agency’s five-seat leadership panel, joining Commissioner Charlotte Burrows.
Republicans will hold a 3-2 edge at the EEOC until at least July 2022 after the additions of Lucas and Sonderling. EEOC Chair Janet Dhillon is the third Republican. Majority control of the leadership panel will allow Republicans to set the agenda on many substantive issues before the agency. A panel vote is required to advance major policies, rulemakings, and some recommendations on litigation.
Samuels’ term expires in July 2021, instead of the customary five-year period, because the time in which the seat has been vacant counts against the eventual occupant’s term. Samuels, Lucas, and Sonderling were nominated by the White House in March.
Samuels has extensive experience in government, including a decade as a senior policy attorney in the EEOC’s Office of Legal Counsel. She was director of the Office for Civil Rights at the Health and Human Services Department from 2014 through early 2017, and was previously an Obama appointee at the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.