Vote delayed on Biden's SBA nominee amid GOP-led filibuster attempts

Small Business Administration Editorial credit: Jer123 / 

A critical vote on President Joe Biden's nomination for a top Small Business Administration position has been postponed following GOP-led filibuster attempts due to the nominee’s association with an advocacy group that has been critical of Israel.

Republican senators have condemned Dilawar Syed, a Pakistani-American entrepreneur nominated to serve as the SBA deputy administrator, for his involvement with Emgage Action, a Muslim-American advocacy group they called “vocally anti-Israel” in a letter sent to Senate Small Business Committee Chairman Ben Cardin (D-Md.) ahead of the vote on Tuesday.

Jewish advocacy groups and a wave of Democrats have released their own statements expressing strong support for Syed, decrying the notions that he may negatively impact Jewish businesses in his position at SBA as “unsupported accusations” with “no factual grounding.”

On Tuesday, a staff member for the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship confirmed the vote had been postponed in a phone call with FCW, saying the last-minute cancellation was due to a scheduling conflict that prevented lawmakers from attending the hearing. The vote has not yet been rescheduled, the staffer said, but they added that Syed maintained the support of the committee and its Democratic chair.

“[Senator] Cardin’s position hasn’t changed at all,” said Fabion Seaton, communications director for the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship. “We don’t think there’s any credence to the idea that he’s an anti-Semite.”

Syed's nomination became the target of GOP-led attacks after Emgage Action recently released statements expressing opposition to legislation restricting boycotts against Israel and other foreign countries.

The June letter signed by eight Republican senators cited Emgage Action's "history of supporting the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement," otherwise known as the BDS movement, and the group’s anti-Israel statements. It added: "If an individual who supports these accusations was to be confirmed, it would hinder the close cooperation businesses in America and Israel have in areas such as cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, medicine, bio-medicine and more."

Syed, who previously disclosed serving as a board member for the advocacy group since 2017, has rejected the BDS movement and condemned it during his confirmation hearing earlier this year. Jewish organizations also rejected efforts to disparage Emgage, including the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, which wrote in a letter that the group "does laudable work mobilizing the Muslim American community around civic engagement and expanding participation in the public square, a goal we share."

The American Jewish Committee also released a statement reported by Forward, which defended Syed from accusations "that somehow Jewish businesses or those with ties to Israel may not fare as well" under his leadership, saying it "rejects the charge that simply an affiliation with Emgage would reflect negatively on an individual, organization, or agency.”

Syed, the current CEO of a health care technology company, previously served as the chair for the White House Initiative on the Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) Economic Growth Committee under former President Barack Obama and was the founding chair for California’s Entrepreneurship Task Force. If confirmed, he will be the highest ranking Muslim American and among the most senior Asian American appointees in the Biden administration.

About the Author

Chris Riotta is a staff writer at FCW covering government procurement and technology policy. Chris joined FCW after covering U.S. politics for three years at The Independent. He earned his master's degree from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, where he served as 2021 class president.


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