(Washington, D.C.) – The Republican members of the U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business & Entrepreneurship today continued to block the nomination of Dilawar Syed to be Deputy Administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). Not a single Republican committee member attended the business meeting Committee Chair Ben Cardin (D-Md.) convened this morning to consider the nomination.
“I would like to remind everyone that the inaction of our colleagues is not harming us, or President Biden, or Mr. Syed himself,” Cardin said during his opening statement. “The people that are being harmed by our Republican colleagues are the millions of American small business owners who are counting on the SBA for support through the pandemic, as well as the long economic recovery that lies ahead.”
Click here to watch Cardin’s opening statement.
The SBA Deputy Administrator is responsible for the day-to-day operations of the agency, under the direction of the Administrator, including helping to usher billions of dollars in desperately needed economic relief aid to struggling entrepreneurs. The position has remained vacant for more than 3 years due to the Trump Administration’s failure to put forward a nominee.
Syed has had a stellar 20-year career in business—leading companies that are still driving major impact across the technology, healthcare, and business services sectors. While he’s been a business leader, Syed has also built a record as a civic leader and advocate for entrepreneurs in Black, Latino, Asian, Indigenous, rural, and other underserved communities.
Syed’s nomination is backed by more than 200 civic, government, higher education, and business leaders and organization, including former Republican New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, U.S. Black Chambers, Small Business Roundtable, the Anti-Defamation League, and the American Jewish Congress.
Cardin continued, “The constantly shifting accusations that my Republican colleagues have levied against Mr. Syed are without merit and are a blatant attempt to score political points rather than do their job on behalf of American small businesses.”
Click here to download an MP4 of the opening statement. A complete transcript, as delivered, follows:
The Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship committee will come to order.
Let me just point out my Democratic colleagues will be here. We have contacted their offices and they are very much participating in this business meeting in order to report the nomination of Dilawar Syed’s nomination.
I think everyone is aware that we cannot establish a quorum for voting without Republican participation. I have been informed by the Republican side of the committee through Senator Paul that none of the Republicans will be attending today’s business meeting, and that is by specific design not to show up at this business meeting.
I would like to begin by thanking each of the Democratic members for their help and participation and for joining us today to take overdue action on Dilawar Syed’s nomination to serve the American people and American small businesses as Deputy Administrator of the Small Business Administration.
Unfortunately, due to the continued intransigence of our Republican colleagues on the committee, we have not met the quorum required to act on Mr. Syed’s nomination.
I would like to remind everyone that the inaction of our colleagues is not harming us, or President Biden, or Mr. Syed himself.
The people that are being harmed by our Republican colleagues are the millions of American small business owners who are counting on the SBA for support through the pandemic, as well as the long economic recovery that lies ahead.
This committee held a hearing on Mr. Syed’s nomination on April 21—exactly 5 months ago.
During the hearing, several of our Republican colleagues raised concerns about the PPP and EIDL loans received by a company that Mr. Syed was involved in as the CEO.
During the hearing, I committed to working in a bipartisan manner to secure additional information from SBA about the loans.
I kept my word, and on June 8, over three months ago, SBA made materials on the loans available for the review, for my review to me, for Ranking Member Paul’s review, and every member of this committee.
Then, on the eve of the vote, and by the way there was nothing irregular at all about those loans. In fact, Mr. Syed did something that many small business owners did not do. He decided to repay the forgivable loan Even though he was entitled to have It forgiven. He thought he did not need help from the government, and he did the right thing. Then on the eve of the vote on the nomination, I received a letter signed by 8 Republican members of the committee seeking to postpone the vote—this time because of a press statement issued by Emgage during the unrest between Israel and Hamas earlier this year, as well as prior statements about the Boycott, Divest, and Sanction movement against Israel.
First, as a volunteer board member, Mr. Syed does not review or approve Emgage’s press statements. Every member of this committee had opportunities to ask Mr. Syed—either directly during the April hearing or in written questions for the record—about his position on BDS.
In fact, that is exactly what happened. In his written response to QFRs asking for his position on the BDS movement and his work with Emgage, Mr. Syed wrote: “First, let me unequivocally state that I do not support BDS. Throughout my career, I have supported engagement with Israeli business. I have personally conducted business with Israeli companies and have mentored entrepreneurs based in Israel. I have travelled to Israel as part of Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC)’s Study Tour. Working with the San Francisco JCRC, I have sought to increase the dialogue and engagement between Muslim and Jewish communities. This work with the JCRC has allowed me to build strong relationships with those who care about Israel, and I am grateful for that.
As laid out in my ethics agreement with the Office of Government Ethics, if I am confirmed I will resign from the board of Emgage.”
Now that was not the end of it. We thought we dealt with all the issues the republicans were concerned about.
Then, the pretense for denying the committee an opportunity to advance this critical nomination shifted for the thirds time.
This time, committee Republicans announced that they will withhold a quorum on the vote because the SBA granted PPP loans to Planned Parenthood affiliates—an action that is legal under the bipartisan CARES Act negotiated personally by Senators Shaheen, Collins, Rubio, and myself. We knew exactly what was in that bill. About non-profits being able to qualify.
The behavior of my Republican colleagues is a continuation of the disregard for SBA and American small businesses that began under the Trump Administration.
The Deputy Administrator of SBA is responsible for the day-to-day management of the agency, so this position is vital to SBA’s success.
But the position has been vacant since April 2018 due to the Trump Administration’s failure to put forward a nominee.
Which means that SBA has gone without a full leadership team for more than 3 years, including during the worst days of the pandemic.
This committee recommended and Congress approved new responsibilities for the SBA during the COVID-19 pandemic. We gave them so much more responsibility, and we urge them to take action as quickly as possible to save America’s small businesses and our economy. Then we expected SBA to provide such additional information to our constituents as well as our committees in order to carry out our responsibilities during COVID-19. Yet the Republicans are not willing to give the SBA the leadership it needs in order to carry out these additional responsibilities.
The partisan, unnecessary, and unconscionable inaction of our Republican colleagues shows no concern for the millions of small businesses still relying on SBA’s support to survive COVID-19 and rebuild for the future.
Dilawar Syed has spent decades building and scaling successful businesses, as well as advocating for underserved small businesses. And it is clear that he is eminently qualified to help lead the SBA.
The constantly shifting accusations that my Republican colleagues have levied against Mr. Syed are without merit and are a blatant attempt to score political points rather than do their job on behalf of American small businesses.I regret that my Republican colleagues are intentionally not appearing before this committee to establish a quorum so we are not able to report out Mr. Syed’s nomination to the full Senate.