Samantha Power confirmed as 19th USAID administrator

Samantha Power, the new USAID administrator. Photo by: Greg Nash / Pool / ABACA

The U.S. Senate voted 68 to 26 to confirm Samantha Power as administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development on Wednesday, cementing her appointment as President Joe Biden’s top global development official.

Power is scheduled to be sworn in Monday, according to Pooja Jhunjhunwala, acting spokesperson at USAID.

The vote Wednesday came after limited debate, with three lawmakers speaking in support of Power’s confirmation and one voicing objections.

Sen. Robert Menendez, a Democrat from New Jersey, delivered opening remarks on Power’s behalf in a full Senate session, calling her qualifications for the position “beyond dispute.”

Sen. Chuck Grassley, a Republican from Iowa, was the only lawmaker to elaborate on his “no” vote. Grassley alleged that as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations — a role Power held from 2013 to 2017 — she was involved in an effort to remove the Islamic Relief Agency from a U.S. sanctions list, and he charged she did not adequately respond to his questions about the situation.

Sens. Ed Markey from Massachusetts and Cory Booker from New Jersey, both Democrats, also spoke on Power’s behalf.

Raised in Ireland and naturalized as a U.S. citizen, Power is a Pulitzer Prize-winning former journalist and a key foreign policy figure from former President Barack Obama’s administration.

Biden announced his intention to nominate Power on Jan. 13 and revealed that her position would be elevated to a permanent seat on the National Security Council’s Principals Committee as the U.S. “reasserts its role as a leader on the world stage.”

During Power’s confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last month, she outlined her four biggest priorities for USAID: the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change, conflict and state collapse, and democratic backsliding.

Power will become the 19th administrator and third woman to lead USAID since its creation in 1961.

Update, April 28, 2021: This story has been updated with information on Power’s swearing-in.

About the author

  • Michael Igoe

    Michael Igoe is a Senior Reporter with Devex, based in Washington, D.C. He covers U.S. foreign aid, global health, climate change, and development finance. Prior to joining Devex, Michael researched water management and climate change adaptation in post-Soviet Central Asia, where he also wrote for EurasiaNet. Michael earned his bachelor's degree from Bowdoin College, where he majored in Russian, and his master’s degree from the University of Montana, where he studied international conservation and development.