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Thomas H.
Former Democrat IA
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    Nomination of Chai Rachel Feldblum to Be a Member of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

    by Former Senator Tom Harkin

    Posted on 2013-12-11

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    HARKIN. Mr. President, I rise in enthusiastic support of the nomination of Chai Feldblum to serve a second term at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Commissioner Feldblum has served with distinction at the Commission since 2010. She is a respected professor of law, and one of America's premier experts on employment discrimination and civil rights laws.

    I have had the pleasure of working personally with Commissioner Feldblum first on the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990, and more recently in 2008 on the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Amendments Act. She was a tremendous help to me in both of those efforts.

    Chai Feldblum has a fierce intellect and a passionate commitment to ensuring equal opportunity for all. Perhaps the most important quality in a Commissioner at this critical agency, Commissioner Feldblum has the ability to listen to all sides and to make careful decisions about the allocation of the scarce resources that Congress provides to the EEOC. That ability to listen carefully, to search for compromise, and to forge consensus are skills that I have observed during our work together, and that I know she brings those skills to the EEOC.

    She has built close working relationships over the course of her career with both worker advocates and the business community. This explains why her nomination has broad bipartisan support here in the Senate and in the employment community as a whole.

    I have here letters of support from the Society of Human Resource Managers, the U.S. Business Leadership Network, and a letter signed by leading attorneys in the labor and employment bar. The signatories on that letter include five former GOP Commissioners and officers of the EEOC and the Department of Labor. Speaking of Ms. Feldblum, these attorneys say, and I quote, ``Commissioner Feldblum has been one of the leading lights in the employment law field. She is a tireless contributor to the employment law bar and to educating stakeholders on employment law issues.'' I ask unanimous consent that these letters be made part of the Record.

    I would also like to note the critical role the EEOC plays in ensuring that people with disabilities are protected from employment discrimination, and in interpreting and enforcing the employment provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act, ADA. My committee last year issued a report, Unfinished Business: Making Employment of People with Disabilities a National Priority, that focused attention on the fact that employment rates for people with disabilities remain far below the employment rates for any other group. The report noted that people with disabilities participate in the workforce at less than one- third the rate of the general population, and that workers with disabilities dropped out of the labor force at a much higher rate during our recent recession. Given these harsh realities, it is critical to have a Commissioner at the EEOC who understands disability law and is committed to enforcing the employment rights of people with disabilities. Given the role that Commissioner Feldblum played not only in passing the ADA and the ADA Amendments Act, but in the implementation of those laws, it is invaluable to have someone with her expertise at the EEOC.

    I am not alone in that view. I have a letter here signed by 38 separate disability organizations in support of her re-nomination. I ask unanimous consent that this letter be included in the Record.

    Commissioner Feldblum's confirmation will ensure that the EEOC has a full complement of members, and that the agency is able to move forward with the critical work of ensuring equality in the workplace. While much progress has been made in recent decades, discrimination in the workplace persists. Today, too many employment decisions are based on insidious stereotypes and prejudices rather than an employee's talent, ability and qualifications. Too many hardworking Americans face hiring discrimination, harassment, unfair treatment or even termination, not because of lack of skills or poor performance but because of their age, race, sex, disability or some other irrelevant factor.

    Commissioner Feldblum brings to the EEOC a determination to work on a bipartisan basis to craft practical solutions, and to work to make America's workplaces more fair and free from discrimination.

    The EEOC's mission is simple: to promote equality of opportunity in the workplace and enforce Federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Unfortunately, the agency must fulfill this broad mission without sufficient resources. The EEOC is constantly being asked to do more with less. Just in the past year, as the result of sequestration and across-the-board cuts, the EEOC has seen its budget drop from $360 million to $343 million. Meanwhile, the EEOC continues to handle an increasing number of complaints--almost 100,000 each in 2011 and 2012! At least in part thanks to strong management and setting clear priorities, in 2011 the agency managed to reduce its backlog for the first time in almost 10 years. Together with Chairman Berrien and the other members of the Commission, Commissioner [[Page S8711]] Feldblum has played an important role in developing a strategic plan that allows the EEOC to create a system that rewards effective investigations and conciliations, and does not incentivize the closure of charges simply to achieve closures.

    I urge my colleagues to support the re-confirmation of this excellent, highly qualified nominee. I look forward to her confirmation and to her continued service on the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

    The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. King). All time has expired. The question is on the Feldblum nomination.

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