On Tuesday, Illinois Senator Tammy Duckworth and Hawaii Senator Mazie Hirono vowed to withhold votes from white nominees until more underrepresented groups are given opportunities in President Biden‘s Administration.
“We do not have anybody either (at a senior level) in the West Wing or in a cabinet-level position, and I don’t think that’s a good message to send to a significant portion of our nation’s population — a population that’s really hurting right now after a year of being under attack,” Duckworth said.
The White House agreed late Tuesday to add a senior-level Asian American Pacific Islander liaison to the administration.
“The President has made it clear that his Administration will reflect the diversity of the country. That has always been, and remains our goal,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement. “The White House will add a senior-level Asian American Pacific Islander liaison, who will ensure the community’s voice is further represented and heard.”
“Senator Duckworth appreciates the Biden Administration’s assurance that it will do much more to elevate AAPI voices and perspectives at the highest levels of government, including appointing an AAPI senior White House official to represent the community, secure the confirmation of AAPI appointments and advance policy proposals that are relevant and important to the community,” Ben Garmisa, Duckworth’s communication director, said. “Accordingly, she will not stand in the way of President Biden’s qualified nominees — which will include more AAPI leaders.”
“I shared that concern that I would have liked to see an AAPI secretary besides Katherine Tai,” Hirono said. “Nothing against her, she’s a fantastic person, but not very many people know that the Trade Rep is a cabinet-level position.”
Late Tuesday, Hirono announced that she would no longer vote no against the President’s nominees.
“I welcome the appointment of a senior-level White House liaison to the AAPI community to further strengthen our voice,” Hirono tweeted. “I had a productive conversation with the White House today to make clear my perspective about the importance of diversity in the President’s cabinet.”
“Based on the private conversation we had, I will continue voting to confirm the historic and highly qualified nominees President Biden has appointed to serve in his administration,” Hirono said.
Neera Tanden, whose parents immigrated from India, was Biden’s nominee to serve as director of the Office of Management and Budget, but she withdrew her nomination once it became clear she didn’t have the votes for confirmation.