After a dramatic 24 hours, the Senate on July 13 confirmed Carla Hayden as the nation’s 14th Librarian of Congress. Hayden is the first woman, and the first African-American to serve as Librarian of Congress, and is the first professional librarian to hold the office in over 60 years.
The final vote was 74-18. But while the final margin reflects the broad support Hayden has garnered, her confirmation almost didn’t happen. On July 12, it was revealed that a group of Senate Republicans had placed an anonymous hold on Hayden’s nomination, threatening to deny her a final up-or-down confirmation vote, and possibly derail her nomination altogether.
Though such actions in the Senate have become common in recent years, the hold was a stunning turn of events for Hayden, who had sailed through her April 20 Senate hearing, and won unanimous approval from the Senate Rules Committee on June 9.
But with news of the hold generating a flurry of calls and petitions to legislators, and the issue trending nationally on Twitter by midday on July 13, the Senate acted. With Senate Democrats prepared to take the floor in support of a vote for Hayden, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell opted to ignore the anonymous hold (which is the leader's option). He called for 15 minutes of debate, followed by a final vote on Hayden's nomination.
At that point, any of the anonymous objectors could have still stopped the vote simply by coming forward with a formal objection, thus denying the unanimous consent required to move forward—although, they would no longer be anonymous. But none did. After a few brief remarks from Senators in support of her nomination, Hayden was quickly and easily confirmed.
In the final tally, the 18 Senators opposing Hayden were all Republican. Eight Senators did not vote, also Republicans—with one exception: Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, who was at an outside event.
A highly respected and accomplished librarian, Hayden has been the CEO of the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore since 1993. She takes over for James H. Billington, who retired in January.
In a statement, officials at the American Library Association said they were “elated” with Hayden’s appointment.
“There is no doubt that Dr. Hayden will have a positive impact by leading efforts to establish a more modern approach to serving members of Congress, researchers and the public at large,” said ALA president Julie Todaro.