Senate Confirmation Process Begins for Marcia Fudge and Cecilia Rouse
Chip Somodevilla

Two African American women tapped for cabinet roles in the administration of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, are appearing before a Senate committee today (Thursday, January 28) as part of the Senate confirmation process. 

The Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs will hear testimony from Marcia L. Fudge, nominated to be secretary of U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Also slated to appear is Cecilia E. Rouse, Ph.D., nominated to be chair of the Council of Economic Advisers. Because Senate office buildings are largely closed to the public, the hearings will be held remotely via a live webcast. 

Fudge has represented Ohio’s 11th Congressional District for the last twelve years, and is a longtime champion of affordable housing, urban revitalization, infrastructure investment, and other reforms to enhance American communities. 

If confirmed, she will be the first woman to lead HUD in more than 40 years, and the second Black woman in history to lead the department. 

In prepared remarks shared with ESSENCE, Fudge vowed to “do everything possible to ensure that every American has a roof over their head.”

“The housing issues our nation faces are real, varied, and touch all of us. …We need policies and programs that can adapt,” she said. “It bears mentioning, particularly in this moment of crisis, that HUD — perhaps more than any other department — exists to serve the most vulnerable people in America. That mandate matters a great deal to me. It is consistent with my own values, and it is precisely what has always motivated me to service.”

Rouse is a leading labor economist, whose most recent role is serving as the dean of the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs. Her expertise centers the economics of education and equality, and she has authored widely cited papers analyzing the economy and communities of color. 

If confirmed, Rouse will become the first African American and just the fourth woman to lead the CEA in the 74 years of its existence. 

“Today our country is living through the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression,” she said in a statement provided to the committee. “Millions of families have had their lives turned upside down, the economic security they’ve worked so hard to build eroded almost overnight by the economic impact of the pandemic. Far too many have slipped through our frayed safety net into hardship and hopelessness. And structural inequities that have always existed within our economy have not just been exposed, but exacerbated, their impact more devastating than ever before.”

We must take “action,” she added, to “shepherd our nation’s economy back onto solid footing. …It is also an opportunity to rebuild the economy better than it was before—making it work for everyone by increasing the availability of fulfilling jobs and leaving no one vulnerable to falling through the cracks.”

Before taking on her role as a dean in 2012, Rouse served as a member of the Council of Economic Advisers in the Obama-Biden Administration and on the National Economic Council in the Clinton Administration as special assistant to President Clinton. 

Glynda Carr is co-founder and president of Higher Heights, which works to elect and politically empower Black women. She is excited about the “record number” of Black women who are being appointed for roles in the Biden-Harris administration.

“This is the result of years and years of tireless advocacy. Through on-the-ground organizing for the 2020 presidential election and Georgia’s Senate runoffs, it is Black women who made the difference in this last election and it is Black women who will continue to make the difference in the future of our country,” said Carr. “The tireless commitment to democracy from Black women across the nation has led not only to the election of Kamala Harris as our nation’s first Black woman vice president, but also to an administration that will serve to better protect and advocate for Black women, our families and our communities. There is no doubt that both action and accountability will be at the heart of their work over the next four years.”

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH)—the presumed incoming chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs—delivered the following opening statement at today’s hearing:

“We are impressed with their knowledge, their commitment, and their passion to serve, especially during the current public health and economic crisis,” he said of Fudge and Rouse. “And I can think of no one better to lead us out of this pandemic and into the future than the two women before us today.”

“After a year when Black Americans have endured so many painful reminders of the yawning gap between the promise of our founding ideals, and our failure to make that promise real for everyone, two Black women will take leading roles in our economic recovery,” Brown noted. “This matters on so many levels. It’s important for our future that little girls, including Black and brown girls, see themselves in our leaders, from the vice president to our economic leaders. And it matters because of the perspectives and the life experiences these two women—these two Black women—bring to these jobs.”