Biden’s top scientist quickly confirmed by Senate

Confirmed despite lawmaker doubts: The president tapped Lander to lead the office in early January, and criticisms about the choice sprouted over two meetings Lander had with late financier and sex offender Jeffrey Epstein in the spring of 2012. Lander told lawmakers at his confirmation hearing that he wasn’t aware of Epstein’s “sordid history” when they met.

Concerns were also raised about Lander previously downplaying the contributions of two female scientists he worked with and toasting a notable geneticist who was accused of espousing racist and sexist views.

The Senate Commerce Committee voted to advance his nomination in a bipartisan vote, but a number of Republican senators voted against Lander — including Sen. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, who had said Lander’s connection to Epstein was “of tremendous concern” at his nomination hearing in April.

Some unease about diversity: Lawmakers also expressed concerns about the lack of diversity in government roles that oversee the tech industry. While Senate Commerce Chair Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) backed Lander’s nomination being reported favorably to the full Senate, she said she “would have loved to see a woman here in this position,” echoing other lawmakers’ desire for Biden to diversify his picks to oversee the tech Industry.

At the Commerce Committee vote, Cantwell also noted that she and Lander came “to an understanding” that diversity would be championed in the OSTP, and the committee would be updated every six months on the office’s diversity matters.

A high-profile role: Biden elevated the top OSTP post to a Cabinet-level position for the first time in history, in a bid that demonstrates his mantra of “science is back.”

Lander was tapped for the role following his stint as co-chair of the Presidential Council of Advisers on Science and Technology during the Obama administration, where he briefed then-Vice President Biden and then-President Barack Obama on science-related issues.