Senate Aide Nominated to Lead Civil Rights Office

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President Bush, seeking to fill a long-vacant post at the U.S. Department of Education, has nominated a veteran Republican aide in the Senate to become the assistant secretary for civil rights.

Stephanie Johnson Monroe, 47, was the chief counsel for the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee from 2001 until earlier this year, and previously served in other posts for the committee. She has long worked with Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H. When he gave up the gavel of the education panel earlier this year to take over the Senate Budget Committee, Ms. Monroe followed him to that committee.

The top civil rights post at the Education Department has been vacant since 2003, when Gerald A. Reynolds stepped down. Mr. Reynolds, nominated early in President Bush’s first term, was never confirmed by the Senate amid controversy over his views on affirmative action. Eventually, President Bush circumvented the Senate in March 2002, using a procedure in the U.S. Constitution that allows the White House to name so-called “recess” appointments of limited duration.

Currently, James F. Manning is identified on the agency’s Web site as having been “delegated the authority to perform the functions of assistant secretary.”

The civil rights office is responsible for enforcing laws that prohibit discrimination based on race, color, national origin, sex, age, or disability in schools and other educational institutions receiving federal funds.

“We look forward to moving Stephanie Monroe’s nomination through the HELP Committee,” Craig Orfield, a spokesman for Republicans on the Senate education panel, said in an e-mail.

The office of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, the panel’s ranking Democrat, did not respond to a request for comment.

William L. Taylor, the chairman of the Citizens Commission on Civil Rights, a watchdog group in Washington, and an outspoken critic of President Bush’s decision in 2001 to nominate Mr. Reynolds to the post, said he was unfamiliar with Ms. Monroe, but suggested the civil rights office has been without a leader for too long.

“There has been no leadership over there,” he said. “People in the civil rights community have mixed feelings about that, because they might be doing some bad things. … For better or worse, it will be interesting to have someone there with real authority.”

Justice Official Named

The June 23 announcement by President Bush came a week after he nominated Wan J. Kim to become the assistant attorney general for civil rights at the Department of Justice. Mr. Kim currently serves as the deputy assistant attorney general in the agency’s civil rights division. The Justice Department position includes oversight of the educational opportunities section, which still oversees scores of long-running school desegregation cases, as well as some other education matters.

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