Rao is slated to appear before the State Judiciary Committee on Tuesday for her confirmation hearing.
Ever since President Donald Trump announced the name of Neomi Rao for nomination for the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, it has been a choppy ride for the legal counsel.
The nomination of Rao, who currently serves as the administrator for the Office of the Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), has been opposed by several liberal activists, as well as Indian American Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-WA.
On Monday, the opposition to Rao’s nomination seemed to become even stronger when 64 South Asian women civil and human rights lawyers, law professors and survivor advocates released a letter to Sen. Lindsey Graham, the powerful chairman of the Committee on the Judiciary, and Ranking Member Sen. Dianne Feinstein, to raise concerns over her confirmation.
The group expressed concerns also to the members of the Senate Judiciary Committee. The letter stated: “We are a group of 64 South Asian American women who are civil and human rights lawyers, law professors, and advocates of survivors of violence. We firmly believe in the importance of a diverse federal judiciary, and it is not lost upon us that if confirmed, Neomi Rao would be the first South Asian American woman to sit on a federal appellate court. However, we are deeply alarmed by Neomi Rao’s record, particularly around gender rights, and we do not believe that she will bring independence and fairness to the federal bench.”
Rao’s nomination became controversial because of her past writings that have said to have exhibited “hostility” toward civil rights and seemed to make “excuses” towards grave offences such as sexual assaults.
Trump first nominated Rao in place of Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who was sworn in as Supreme Court judge in October. Last month, she was re-nominated.
If Rao gets confirmed by the Senate, she will be the second Indian American to hold this powerful position.
The letter by the 64 lawyers also strongly listed Rao’s stances and views that have remained a bone of contention. It stated: “As the head of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), Rao is the Trump Administration’s point person to deregulate public protections that benefit all Americans. Rao’s policy decisions have led to the rollbacks of public protections relied upon by vulnerable communities including women, survivors of sexual violence, and LGBTQ people. In 2017, Rao gutted an equal pay initiative that required employers to collect data on wages by sex, race, and ethnicity, claiming that it was “unnecessarily burdensome.”
OIRA also vetted the Department of Education’s proposed rules draft that seek to undermine civil rights protections for sexual assault survivors in schools under Title IX. According to civil rights activists, these proposed rules would discourage reporting of sexual assault, prioritize assailants over survivors, and only consider the cost savings to schools without any consideration of the costs of sexual violence on survivors.
Rao is also in the process of finalizing a new rule that would allow health care providers to deny medical care to LGBTQ patients, women seeking reproductive health care, and others based on the provider’s conscientious objections. “Rao’s proclivity to choose institutions and corporations over people is deeply troubling,” the letter states.
The letter also referred to one of the most controversial of Rao’s writings that had a victim-blaming and rape apologists’ tone. It urged the Senators to carefully vet and examine Rao’s record and not fast-track her nomination.
Rao’s nomination is being opposed by many advocacy groups. On Monday, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) also announced its opposition to her nomination.