CHICAGO (CBS) — Furious that not one of President Joe Biden’s cabinet secretaries is an Asian American or Pacific Islander, U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth on Tuesday said she’ll vote against all of the president’s “non-diversity” nominees until Biden commits to more AAPIs in key executive branch posts.
“President Biden will be the first president in 20 years without a cabinet secretary who’s AAPI,” said Duckworth, who was born in Thailand. “There’s no AAPI representation in the Cabinet. There’s not a single AAPI in a cabinet position. That’s not acceptable. That’s what I told the White House.”READ MORE: As Jury Deliberates In R. Kelly Sex Trafficking Case, What Impact Will Verdict Have On His Future Trials In Chicago?
Duckworth, the junior senator from Illinois, said she found it “insulting” that White House deputy chief of staff Jen O’Malley Dillon pointed to Vice President Kamala Harris as an example of sufficient AAPI representation in the Cabinet. Harris is the first person of Indian American heritage to hold national office.
“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. “Last night, that was the trigger for me, but multiple times I’ve heard that, and 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?”
Duckworth said, until the White House figures out a solution, she will vote against all non-diversity nominees that require Senate confirmation to senior White House positions.READ MORE: Cook County Circuit Court Website Back Online, After Weeks-Long Outage Caused By Breach
“I will vote for racial minorities and I will vote for LGBTQ, but anybody else I’m not voting for,” she said. “I’m talking to the White House about it, but they need to at this point – after six months of giving them names of people, many well-qualified AAPIs who never even got a phone call – at this point, they can call me and tell me what their proposal is, but until then I am a no vote on the floor, on all non-diversity nominees.”
The senator said Asian-American lawmakers were told Biden’s nominees for U.S. Trade Representative and director of the White House Office of Management and Budget would be Asian Americans or Pacific Islanders. But after the Neera Tanden withdrew her nomination for budget director when it became clear she couldn’t get enough votes for confirmation, Duckworth said “now we’re hearing that the push is not for an APPI candidate to be considered for the head of OMB.”
While Biden has filled all of the Cabinet secretary posts already, Duckworth’s vow to oppose non-diversity nominees from the Biden administration could hamper the president’s ability to confirm sub-Cabinet and judicial nominees, with the Senate divided 50-50 along party lines.
Duckworth said the White House told her they’d get back to her about her demands.MORE NEWS: Chicago Weather: Cold Front Passes Soon
“I’ve been talking to them for months and they’re still not aggressive, so I am not going to be voting for any nominee from the White House other than diversity nominees. I’ll be a no on everyone until they figure this out,” she said.