NAICU Washington Update

Senate Holds Hearing on Biden Education Nominees

July 15, 2021

The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee held a hearing this week to consider three of President Biden’s nominees for posts at the Department of Education. 

The committee considered the nominations of Elizabeth “Lisa” Brown for General Counsel and Roberto Rodriguez for Assistant Secretary for Planning, Evaluation and Policy Development. However, the majority of the hearing focused on the controversial nomination of Catherine Lhamon for Assistant Secretary of the Office for Civil Rights. Lhamon, who previously served in the same position during the Obama Administration, has long been a lightning rod for criticism over the role she played in aggressively enforcing Obama-era Title IX policies on sexual assault policies. 

At the hearing, Republican lawmakers subjected Lhamon to intense questioning on a number of issues related to Title IX, including whether she would preserve the procedural protections for accused students contained in the 2020 Trump Administration regulations, such as requirements regarding live hearings and cross-examination. Lhamon was also grilled about whether she would rely on Title IX to prohibit discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender students.  

In her response to the questioning, Lhamon was critical of the 2020 Title IX regulations, arguing that the rules “weakened” protections against sexual assault. She also noted her commitment to preventing all forms of discrimination under Title IX when asked about transgender student athletes.

Although Senator Richard Burr (R-NC), the ranking Republican on the committee, called Lhamon’s record “deeply troubling if not outright disqualifying,” it is unclear whether Republicans will ultimately block her nomination. A confirmation hearing has not yet been scheduled, but Lhamon is strongly supported by civil rights groups and Senate Democrats, including HELP Committee Chair Patty Murray (D-WA). 

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