Army veteran Donald Remy was easily confirmed to the second-highest post in the Department of Veterans Affairs on Thursday after two months of political drama surrounding his nomination.
The 91-8 vote in support of the former National Collegiate Athletic Association executive to take over the VA leadership role was finalized with no public debate or protest. Remy is expected to be sworn into the post in coming days.
Remy will be only the second Black veteran ever to serve in the VA deputy secretary role. In recent weeks, Secretary Denis McDonough has actively lobbied lawmakers to finish his confirmation process, pointing to the department’s electronic medical records modernization project in particular as an issue he will help lead in coming months.
Despite facing no opposition in the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, Remy’s nomination has been stalled since late May after Sen. Marcia Blackburn, R-Tenn., placed a hold over what she initially said were concerns that VA leaders were too slow to provide information on a potential toxic exposures measure under consideration in Congress.
On Wednesday, Blackburn said she continued to oppose Remy’s nomination, but cited his time at NCAA as the reason for her objections.
“I’m very concerned about Donald Remy and the way he conducted himself at the NCAA,” she said. “And I do not want that to happen to our nation’s veterans. They deserve better.”
In 2009, Remy was selected by President Barack Obama to serve as general counsel for the Army, but was forced to withdraw his nomination after failing to include his Fannie Mae experience on official government forms.
He joined the NCAA a few years later, where he has held a variety of roles, including chief legal officer. That has put him at the center of a number of widely publicized legal fights for the sports association, including whether college athletes should receive more compensation for their work.
Last month, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously against NCAA’s restrictions on athletes earning money during their college playing careers. Blackburn said that decision raised questions about his qualifications to serve in the department’s leadership.
Remy has received some public criticism for his role in defending those policies in recent years but faced no questions on the issue during his May confirmation hearing.
Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Jon Tester, D-Mont., has repeatedly defended Remy as a qualified pick for the VA post and blasted Blackburn’s opposition as “political games” that undermine efforts to reform the department.
Remy is a graduate of Louisiana State University and Howard University School of Law, and spent four years in the Army. During his time in service, he served as assistant to the Army General Counsel, handling a host of legal and policy issues. He later worked as deputy assistant attorney general at the Justice Department.
He is also the first Senate-confirmed holder of the deputy secretary post in more than a year. Carolyn Clancy has been serving in the role in an acting capacity since the start of Joe Biden’s presidency. The last Senate-confirmed deputy was James Byrne, who was fired by then Secretary Robert Wilkie in February 2020.
Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.