Daniel Gade, a nominee to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, said Thursday he has withdrawn from consideration, even as his name still appeared on a U.S. Senate activity calendar and as lawmakers scrambled to strike a deal to confirm the agency’s nominees before the end of the year.
Gade told The National Law Journal in a phone interview that he informed the White House in November he no longer wished to be considered for a post on the EEOC. Gade said he has accepted a teaching position at American University that begins in January.
In the interview, Gade, who formerly taught at the United States Military Academy, said he grew frustrated as his nomination did not advance further than a Senate committee vote in more than a year.
“I’m willing to serve but the process of being confirmed should not be so painful that it causes good people to run away,” Gade told the NLJ on Thursday afternoon. “The EEOC is way too important to leave unfilled at the commissioner level. It’s clear there isn’t a path forward.”
The committee on health, education, labor and pensions approved Gade, and another nominee Janet Dhillon, in October 2017. The Senate, as of Thursday evening, had not voted on either nominee, nor that of a third member, Chai Feldblum, whose renomination to the EEOC drew ire from some conservatives.
The EEOC declined to comment on Gade’s plans, and the White House did not return messages seeking comment. Democratic and Republican aides on the Senate committee also did not return messages seeking comment.
Gade’s nomination appeared on the Senate’s executive calendar for Thursday, as it did for all of December. A government website that tracks the status of nominees Thursday identified Gade’s nomination as pending.
➤➤ Get employment law news and commentary straight to your in-box with Labor of Law, a new Law.com briefing. Learn more and sign up here.
Gade told the NLJ he offered a resignation letter, but that the White House said that would not be necessary. American University confirmed Gade will begin a new position at the School of Public Affairs in January.
The EEOC is inching towards an increasingly likely scenario where the agency, which enforces federal civil rights laws, will be without a quorum. Such a circumstance is rare but not without precedent. Some costly or complex litigation and policy activity would halt, but the agency would still function day-to-day.
Dhillon was not reached Thursday for comment. The Trump administration picked the former Burlington Stores Inc. general counsel as chairwoman of the EEOC. Feldblum declined to comment Thursday.
Feldblum, a Democratic commissioner and the agency’s first openly gay member, reportedly drew criticism from U.S. Mike Lee, R-Utah, who blocked Feldblum based on her “radical views on marriage” and that her pro-LGBT stances would interfere with religious rights.
The EEOC is a five-member, bipartisan commission. Acting Chair Victoria Lipnic, a Republican, and Charlotte Burrows, a Democrat, currently remain on the commission. Feldblum publicly has pushed back against criticism that she is opposed to religious liberty.
“Just because one Republican refused to allow the EEOC to continue some of its most important work protecting workers’ civil rights on the job does not mean that this is over,” Sen. Patty Murray, D-Washington, said Wednesday. “I want every worker who has bravely come forward with a story of sexual harassment or assault in the workplace to know that I will not stop fighting until the EEOC is able to fully protect workers’ civil rights.”
Gade, an Iraq war veteran and advocate for military and veterans rights, said he moved to Washington more than a year ago with the expectation he would be confirmed as a member of the EEOC. Gade resigned from his position at West Point to join the commission. He has been employed as a senior adviser at the U.S. Labor Department.
Gade declined to comment on whether he thinks Feldblum should be confirmed to the EEOC, where she first began her service in 2010. He described the confirmation process as a “political mess.”
“She is obviously a passionate advocate for her point of view, as any commissioner is likely to be,” Gade said Thursday. “Sen. Lee has spoken out about her. That’s his right and obligation as a leader. That’s his prerogative as a senator. He is a man of principle and he is acting on that principle.”
Gade said in the interview he was disappointed he would not be an EEOC commissioner. He said an agency that “gives workers a fair shake” is critically important.
Gade has been a critic of disability pay for wounded veterans, arguing instead for a greater incentives program. He was twice wounded during service in Iraq, which led to the loss of his right leg.