Welcome

Three EEOC Nominees Headed Toward Senate Confirmation Votes (1)

Sept. 17, 2020, 9:10 PMUpdated: Sept. 17, 2020, 9:41 PM

Three nominees for positions on the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission are on a path to Senate confirmation votes in coming days, a prospect that could give the workplace civil rights agency its first full complement of five commissioners during the Trump era.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) filed for cloture Thursday on Republican nominees Keith Sonderling and Andrea Lucas and Democratic nominee Jocelyn Samuels. The procedural action, once cloture votes are held, will limit debate on the nominations and clear them for consideration by the full Senate, starting the middle of next week, McConnell spokesman Doug Andres said in an email.

The Senate will take up each nomination separately. That could inject an element of uncertainty into the timing of the final votes, given that lawmakers must strike a deal on fiscal 2021 spending by the end of the month to avert a government shutdown.

Confirming the nominees would lock down Republican control of the commission into at least the second year of the next administration even if President Donald Trump isn’t reelected. Lucas is nominated for a term that would expire in July 2025; Sonderling for a term that would end in July 2024; and Republican EEOC Chair Janet Dhillon’s term expires July 2022.

Lucas would replace Republican Commissioner Victoria Lipnic, who is serving in a holdover capacity after her term expired in July. Democratic Commissioner Charlotte Burrows, the lone Democrat on the leadership panel, has her seat through July 2023.

Sonderling, who serves as the Labor Department’s deputy administrator for the Wage and Hour Division, and Lucas, currently an associate with Washington law firm Gibson Dunn, are likely to be confirmed easily in the Republican-controlled chamber.

McConnell, by moving to devote Senate floor time to Samuels’ nomination, signaled he believes there are sufficient votes to confirm her. Samuels is a prominent lawyer and advocate for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals, and recently drew opposition from a trio of GOP senators.

She currently helms a think tank at the University of California, Los Angeles that studies sexual orientation and gender identity, and has spoken out on behalf of LGBT workers in the past.

When the nominees were advanced by the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee in June, Republican Sens. Richard Burr (N.C.), Mike Braun (Ind.), and Kelly Loeffler (Ga.) said they would have voted against Samuels if there had been a roll call vote.

Former EEOC Commissioner Chai Feldblum, a Democrat, withdrew from consideration for a third term with the agency in January 2019 after a small group of Republican lawmakers, led by Sens. Marco Rubio (Fla.) and Mike Lee (Utah), blocked her nomination. Republicans had cited concerns about Feldblum’s ability to balance religious freedom and LGBT rights.

Sonderling was first nominated by the White House in July 2019, but the Senate HELP panel didn’t vote on the nomination before the end of 2019. He was renominated in March along with Lucas and Samuels.

(Updated with response from McConnell spokesman in second paragraph.)

To contact the reporters on this story: Paige Smith in Washington at psmith@bloomberglaw.com; Ben Penn in Washington at bpenn@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: John Lauinger at jlauinger@bloomberglaw.com; Martha Mueller Neff at mmuellerneff@bloomberglaw.com

To read more articles log in. To learn more about a subscription click here.