Members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing yesterday to consider Ellen Sauerbrey, President Bush’s nominee to be Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees and Migration. Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Paul Sarbanes (D-MD), and Barack Obama (D-IL) expressed concerns and asked questions about her qualifications for the post, highlighting her disturbing record on women’s issues. Senator Boxer pressed the nominee on her opposition to the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and her anti-choice position, and said, “[I do] not believe this is a position for an ideologue.”
Senator Sarbanes also questioned Sauerbrey closely, asking if her experiences had adequately prepared her for working with refugee and crisis situations and noting that her three predecessors in the position all had worked specifically with issues related to refugees and migration. Sauerbrey repeatedly cited her management of census work done in three Maryland counties, where she oversaw a 300-person staff, and referred to “transferable [management] skills.” She also attempted to defend the anti-abortion amendment she tried to attach to the Beijing Platform for Action earlier this year, which had to be withdrawn because of complete lack of support. Charlotte Bunch, executive director of the Center for Women’s Global Leadership at Rutgers University criticized it as “an effort to inject US politics into a broad international consensus” among 189 countries.
Sauerbrey ran Bush’s 2000 campaign in Maryland. She was first appointed by Bush to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, and later appointed to her present position as the US Ambassador to the UN Commission on the Status of Women. Sauerbrey’s nomination has been widely criticized as a crony appointment similar to that of Michael Brown to head the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The Feminist Majority and a dozen women’s organizations sent a letter to President Bush opposing her nomination.