No Third Term Likely for Republican EEOC Commissioner

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By Kevin McGowan

Dec. 12 — The Senate failed to vote on Constance Barker’s nomination for a third term as EEOC commissioner, likely ending her agency tenure.

Barker, a Republican, joined the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in 2008 and is the agency’s longest-serving commissioner. President Barack Obama in July nominated Barker for a new term that would end July 1, 2021. The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee in September approved Barker’s nomination for Senate floor consideration.

But the full Senate Dec. 10 wrapped up its business for the current Congress without confirming Barker. The Senate is meeting in pro forma sessions for the rest of December and with unanimous consent, it conceivably still could confirm Barker before the end of the year. That appears to be a remote possibility.

The most likely scenario is that President-elect Donald J. Trump, once inaugurated, will nominate a new EEOC commissioner for the five-member panel.

The EEOC’s other current members are Chair Jenny Yang and Commissioners Chai Feldblum and Charlotte Burrows, all Democrats, and Commissioner Victoria Lipnic, a Republican.

Future Chair an Open Question

Trump as president can designate a new EEOC chair from among the sitting commissioners.

Lipnic would be the sole Republican EEOC commissioner when Trump takes office Jan. 20, assuming Barker doesn’t secure a new term. Trump then could tap Lipnic as the EEOC chair or name her acting chair while he nominates another Republican for the leadership post.

Yang has said that after Trump replaces her as chair, she would remain as an EEOC commissoner. Her term expires July 1. That means the three Democratic commissioners would retain their EEOC majority for some time after Trump designates a Republican chair or acting chair.

Major changes in the EEOC’s current policies and priorities probably wouldn’t occur until after Republicans have a majority on the commission. Assuming the Senate confirms Trump’s prospective nominees without too much difficulty, a Republican majority should be in place by late 2017.

To contact the reporter on this story: Kevin McGowan in Washington at kmcgowan@bna.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Peggy Aulino at maulino@bna.com; Terence Hyland at thyland@bna.com

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