WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:
- Dissatisfied over the lack of AAPI representation in the White House, Democrat Senators Tammy Duckworth (IL.) and Mazie Hirono (HI.) pledged to cast “’no’ votes” on President Joe Biden’s nominees.
- Both senators said that they would continue supporting “diverse” Biden nominees.
- Biden pledged that he would build the most diverse cabinet in US history.
Democrat Senators Tammy Duckworth (IL.) and Mazie Hirono (HI.) have vowed not to vote in favor of President Joe Biden’s appointees, who are not diverse candidates, as both were appalled by the lack of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) representation in the new administration.
The first Thai-American in Congress, Duckworth said that she had been in touch with the White House on the concern that there were not enough AAPI representatives in Biden’s cabinet. She submitted a list of “well-qualified AAPI” candidates but none of them “got a phone call.”
“There’s no AAPI representation in the Cabinet,” Duckworth told reporters on Tuesday afternoon. “There’s not a single AAPI in a Cabinet position. That’s unacceptable.”
The senator said she reached her tipping point after a Monday evening call with Biden aides. She said that White House Deputy Chief of Staff Jen O’Malley Dillon pointed out that Vice President Kamala Harris originated from South Asia.
“Last night, that was the trigger for me. To be told that ‘well, you have Kamala Harris, we’re very proud of her, you don’t need anybody else’ is insulting,” Duckworth said as she noted that she already heard the statement many times every time she talks with them.
“That is not something you would say to the Black caucus: ‘Well, you have Kamala — we’re not going to put any more African Americans in the Cabinet because you have Kamala.’ Why would you say it to AAPI?”
The Illinois lawmaker said that she advised the White House of her decision to vote “no” on Biden’s nominees “until they figure this out.” She noted, though, that she would continue supporting racial minorities and LGBTQ nominees.
Backing Duckworth’s sentiments, Hirono told the media that she will also cast “no” votes on typical appointees until Biden pushes “more diverse representation in the Cabinet and in senior White House positions.”
The Hawaiian lawmaker noted that she was not just supporting AAPI.
“This is not about pitting one diversity group against another. So I’m happy to vote for a Hispanic, a Black person, an LGBTQ person, an AAPI person. I’d just like to see [a] more diverse representation,” she said.
When he swore in office, Biden vowed to assemble the most diverse US Cabinet in history. In response to Duckworth’s remark on Tuesday, the president said: “We have the most diverse Cabinet in history. We have a lot of Asian Americans that are in the Cabinet and in sub-Cabinet levels.”
So far, there are no Asian Americans in the White House Cabinet. At least two high-level positions such as the US trade representative and surgeon general were AAPI.