Washington, DC — Today after a contentious executive session of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee on the nomination of Daniel Pipes to the board of the U.S. Institute for Peace, the Committee lost a working quorum. Based on an AAI initiative, organizations present agreed that they would send a joint letter to the White House asking that the President withdraw this nominee from consideration.
During the Committee’s discussion of the Pipes nomination, it became clear that many of the Senators had questions and concerns regarding whether or not Pipes should serve on the Board of the United States Institute of Peace. The ranking Democratic member, Senator Edward Kennedy, noted his dismay regarding Pipes offensive and alarmist quotes about “brown-skinned” immigrants. Senator Christopher Dodd (D-CT) agreed with Senator Kennedy and stated he was opposed to the Pipes nomination.
Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) recalled poignant stories from his childhood of his immigrant mother. He described her as a devout woman who took pride in her heritage but was fully American. Senator Harkin indicated that he saw no contradiction in one’s being proud of their ethnicity or faith and being American. He added that Cedar Rapids is home to the oldest American mosque and that the community flourishes as an example of religious diversity and co-existence. Senator Harkin went on to express his reservations about Pipes questioning the “enfranchisement” rights and “affluence” of Muslims and called Pipes a “lightning rod”.
Senator John Warner (R-VA) added that given what he had heard, he had many more questions regarding the nominee and thought that it deserved closer investigation. At one point, Senator Kennedy could be seen leaning over to Committee Chairman Judd Gregg (R-NH) and whispering in his ear before leaving the room. It was at that point that the Committee lost its working quorum. Previously the Committee had approved other nominees without debate and by unanimous consent.
Following the Committee session, community leaders in attendance from AAI, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) and the Muslim American Society (MAS) among others agreed to send a joint-letter requesting that President Bush withdraw Pipes’ nomination.
“The Senate should have never been put in the difficult position of considering such a controversial candidate. The Administration should withdraw Daniel Pipes nomination. He is clearly unfit to serve on the board of the U.S. Institute of Peace,” said AAI Managing Director Jean AbiNader.
Jennifer Salan is Communications Director of the Arab American Institute (AAI). Founded in 1985, the AAI is a nonprofit organization committed to the civic and political empowerment of Americans of Arab descent. AAI provides policy, research and public affairs services to support a broad range of community activities. Visit the AAI’s website at www.aaiusa.org