While the Senate has acted slowly on filling the HHS Secretary position two months after Xavier Becerra’s nomination by President Biden, important lower-level non-Senate confirmation positions are being filled.
Last week the Senate Finance Committee split 14 to 14 on sending Xavier Becerra’s nomination to become the next Secretary of HHS. The tie means the full Senate will vote on his nomination, possibly this week. The 14 to 14 vote was along party lines, with Republicans questioning his experience for the HHS position despite his years of work on health care and other human services issues on the House Ways and Means Committee. Despite this, he appears likely to be confirmed.
At the same time, the Administration continued to fill several key HHS offices. Aysha E. Schomburg was appointed as the next Associate Commissioner of the Children’s Bureau—head of the Bureau that oversees child welfare issues. The position does not require a Senate confirmation, but past administrations have waited for some of the earlier nominations for the Office of Assistant Secretary for the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) and the Commissioner for the Administration on Children Youth and Families (ACYF) to be nominated before these lower but important positions are filled.
Aysha E. Schomburg comes from New York City’s Administration for Children’s Services (ACS). She was the Senior Administrator for Program Oversight for the Administration for Children’s Services (ACS). New York City Commissioner David Hansell commented,
“Aysha E. Schomburg has distinguished herself in a range of roles at the New York City Administration for Children’s Services (ACS), and has made enormous contributions to our progressive reforms that have positioned ACS as a national leader in child welfare. I am so pleased that President Biden has appointed her to bring her expertise, intelligence, and commitment to improving outcomes for families, to her new role as the Associate Commissioner of the Children’s Bureau in the federal Administration for Children and Families in the US Department of Health and Human Services. ACS’s loss is the nation’s gain, and I am confident that Aysha’s many accomplishments at ACS will help her lead the national effort to strengthen supports and services for families across the country”.
New York has experienced a dramatic decline in foster care placements. At one time, having as many as 50,000 children in foster care in the 1990s, that population decreased to 8,000 before the pandemic. The 8,000 figure represented a decline of more than 50 percent since 2010.
In previous administrations, Jerry Milner was not selected for the Children’s Bureau until June of 2017 during the Trump Administration. His appointment proceeded with the slow appointment and then Senate confirmation of Lynn Johnson to be the Assistant Secretary of Administration for Children and Families (ACF). She was nominated the same month that Milner was appointed but was not confirmed until August 2018. The Commissioner for the Administration for Children Youth and Families (ACYF), Elizabeth Darling, took even longer to make it through the confirmation process by September 2019.
In the Obama Administration, Bryan Samuels was nominated June 2009 to be the Commissioner of the Administration for Children Youth and Families (ACYF), but the Senate did not approve his selection until February 2010. The Children’s Bureau position was not filled during his tenure. The Biden Administration has not made nominations for ACF and ACYF, likely waiting for a Senate approval of Xavier Becerra for the Secretary of HHS.