The US senate confirmed Nikki Haley as the next ambassador to the United Nations, a position of cabinet rank that an Indian-American will hold for the first time in the country’s history.
The 44-year-old politician was cleared with a 96-4 vote in the 100-member chamber.
Haley, a rising star in the Republican Party, had earlier made history by becoming the first Indian-American woman to be elected governor of a state. She was serving her second term when President Donald Trump named her his nominee for the UN job.
As the governor of South Carolina, a state with a long history of racist tensions, Haley caught the nation’s attention in 2015 by leading the call for removing a Confederate-era flag from the premises of its seat of government and legislature. The horrific massacre of nine African-Americans at a church in Charleston by Dylann Roof, a white supremacist, had spurred the demand.
Haley – born Nimrata Randhawa to a Sikh family – is the fifth Indian-American to be appointed to a senior position in the Trump administration until now. The others are Seema Verma, who will head medicare and medicaid; Ajit Pai, to head the Federal Communication Commission; and Raj Shah, to the White House. The fifth, Preet Bharara, will continue to hold office as the US attorney for the southern district of New York – which has jurisdiction over US financial hub Wall Street – from the Obama administration.
Haley was once considered to be a top contender for the position of running mate for the Republican presidential candidate, and Marco Rubio was expected to pick her if he won the primaries. He didn’t, and Haley was at odds with Trump – publicly.
Though Haley did endorse him eventually, few expected her to be picked for a cabinet-rank position. When she first met the president-elect at the Trump Tower in Manhattan, there was speculation that she was being considered for secretary of state.
She may have been, but it was the US job that she got.