- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 30, 2005

The Senate is set to confirm a prominent Maryland Republican as assistant secretary of state despite many objections from women’s groups and Democrats who say she is unqualified.

Ellen R. Sauerbrey, a former Maryland House delegate and two-time gubernatorial candidate — now ambassador to the United Nations’ Commission on Human Rights — was chosen by President Bush to lead the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM) in the State Department.

But 11 liberal women’s groups have criticized the appointment, charging that the Republican National Committeewoman’s appointment is a “crony” nomination.

The bureau manages a $700 million budget and directly administers humanitarian programs for refugees and migrants, working closely with the U.S. Agency for International Development.

“She has no experience managing refugee or humanitarian crises and no experience administering the type of large-scale programs that fall under the direction of PRM,” said June Zeitlin, executive director of the Women’s Environment and Development Organization.

The groups also charged that Mrs. Sauerbrey has opposed increased international cooperation within the U.N. and opposed women’s rights treaties.

Sen. Barbara Boxer, California Democrat, raised similar concerns last week at a confirmation hearing for Mrs. Sauerbrey.

“This is not, I believe, a position for an ideologue,” Mrs. Boxer said while pressing the nominee on her opposition to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women and her anti-abortion stance.

“Whether we’re talking about her complete lack of experience in the areas of refugees and migration or her continued refusal to advance the reproductive rights of women, it is clear that Ellen Sauerbrey is unqualified to serve as assistant secretary,” said Eleanor Smeal of the Feminist Majority Foundation.

Mrs. Sauerbrey served 16 years in the Maryland House of Delegates, including eight years as minority leader. She lost two gubernatorial elections to Parris N. Glendening, a Democrat. She ran President Bush’s Maryland campaign in 2000 and was appointed to the United Nations by him in 2002.

“Ambassador Sauerbrey has had a distinguished career in public service,” said Sen. Richard G. Lugar, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “Beyond political office, she has served in positions for many charitable and civic groups, including the Council on Economic Education in Maryland and Franklin Square Hospital.”

Despite the opposition from Democrats and criticism from the women’s groups, Mrs. Sauerbrey is expected to be confirmed in a floor vote early this week, said Foreign Relations Committee staffers.

Republican senators treated the nomination as routine, and some congratulated Mrs. Sauerbrey in advance.

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