Bush to name Sauerbrey to State Department

Maryland Republican would oversee programs related to refugee issues

September 01, 2005|By Gwyneth K. Shaw | Gwyneth K. Shaw,SUN NATIONAL STAFF

WASHINGTON - President Bush intends to nominate Ellen R. Sauerbrey, a former Maryland delegate and Republican gubernatorial candidate, to the top refugee post at the State Department, the White House announced late yesterday.

Sauerbrey, 67, who has represented the administration on international women's issues since Bush's first term, is the president's choice to become assistant secretary of state for population, refugees and migration. In that job, she would oversee more than $700 million worth of programs for refugee protection, resettlement and humanitarian assistance.

The nomination must be confirmed by the Senate.

An outspoken opponent of abortion, Sauerbrey could draw criticism from some advocacy groups that have clashed with her in her current job, as U.S. representative to the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women.

The United States withdrew a proposal this year that would have amended a women's rights platform, signed in 1995 in China, to state that equal rights for women did not include a "right to abortion."

Sauerbrey, a Baltimore native, served 16 years in the House of Delegates - including eight as Republican leader. She came close to becoming governor in 1994, losing to Democrat Parris N. Glendening by fewer than 6,000 votes out of more than 1.4 million cast, prompting a drawn-out election challenge on her behalf.

Four years later, Glendening defeated her by more than 10 percentage points, in spite of Sauerbrey's efforts to moderate her conservatism.

After the 1998 election, Sauerbrey said she was looking for a "new challenge." She found it by remaining a force in the Maryland Republican Party, which included working as state chairwoman of Bush's 2000 presidential campaign. Less than two months after taking office, Bush named her to the U.N. Commission on Human Rights.

The next year, he tapped her for an ambassadorial-level post as U.S. envoy to the United Nations commission. That nomination was not an issue - though her confirmation was delayed by a squabble over another diplomatic appointment.

This year, she raised the ire of other nations and activist groups with her effort to amend the 1995 women's-rights declaration.

Ultimately, U.S. officials agreed to drop a specific reference to the right to abortion from the amendment, but not until complaints came from representatives from several nations, including Brazil and members of the European Union.

Some groups that support abortion rights, including the International Women's Health Coalition, also were critical.

Jennifer Kidwell, a spokeswoman for the coalition, said last night that it was too soon for the group to comment on Sauerbrey's nomination.

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