Senator Tammy Duckworth, Democrat of Illinois, said on Tuesday that she would refuse to vote for any of President Biden’s candidates “other than the candidates for diversity” until the White House remedies it. which she called an unacceptable shortage of Asia-Americans and Pacific Islands at the top. administrative positions.
His ultimatum came as Mr Biden faces mounting pressure on the issue amid a growing wave of racism against Asian Americans during the pandemic, culminating in last week’s deadly shootings in Atlanta.
Ms Duckworth and Hawaii Democrat Senator Mazie Hirono said they used a private video meeting Monday night with other Senate Democrats to tell Mr Biden’s top advisers, including Deputy Chief of Staff Jennifer O ‘Malley Dillon, that the scarcity of Asian-American cabinet officials was “unacceptable” and needed to be dealt with quickly. The couple are the only two Asian-American members of the Senate.
Ms Duckworth said she followed up on Tuesday morning to let the White House know she was ‘a no to anything other than diversity candidates’ who ran for the Senate until she believes Mr Biden’s team was taking the right steps, starting with the president’s candidate. for the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy. With the Senate divided equally between the two parties, its opposition could create considerable pressure to reach an agreement.
“I’ve been talking to them for months,” Ms. Duckworth said in an interview. “They’re still not aggressive, so I won’t vote for any White House candidate other than diversity candidates. I’ll be a “no” to everyone until they figure it out. “
Open disputes between Mr. Biden and the Democrats on Capitol Hill were relatively rare in his first few months on the job. But prominent Asian-American lawmakers who have quietly fussed over nominations and nominations for months, have signaled they have finished giving the White House the benefit of the doubt.
During Monday night’s meeting, Ms Duckworth said Ms O’Malley Dillon had pointed out that Vice President Kamala Harris, whose mother was from India, and Katherine Tai, the main US trade envoy to Chinese origin, were of Asian and American descent. . The White House considers the two women to be in Cabinet, although they do not head executive departments.
Ms Duckworth, who is Thai American, called Ms Harris’ invocation to allay her concerns “insulting”.
“It’s not something you would say to the Black Caucus – ‘Well you have Kamala, we’re not going to put African Americans in Cabinet anymore because you have Kamala,” she told the journalists Tuesday.
“Why would you tell AAPI?” she added, referring to Asian Americans and the Pacific Islands.
Ms Duckworth added that for months she had given the White House the names of potential Asian-American nominees “who had never even received a phone call.”
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Axios first reported the details of the exchange on Monday.
Ms Hirono was less pointed in her criticism, but said on Tuesday she shared Ms Duckworth’s “frustration”. They are two of eight Asian Americans to have served in the Senate, including Ms. Harris.
“I realize we have Katherine Tai, but I don’t think the sales rep is what the community considers a cabinet member,” she said.
Ms Hirono, who is Japanese-American, said she had also urged the White House to more regularly interview Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders as a group when assessing support for policy proposals, as they black Americans, women and other groups would.