Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) on Wednesday vowed to oppose President Biden’s future “non-diversity” nominees unless the White House commits to a plan to tap more nominees of Asian or Pacific Islander descent for high-level positions in the administration, according to multiple reports.
Duckworth, who is the first Thai American woman in Congress, told reporters on Tuesday that she believes the White House is “still not aggressive” when it comes to AAPI representation in the administration.
In light of the lack of representation of AAPI in Biden’ Cabinet, Duckworth vowed to only support the President’s “diversity nominees.”
“I am not going to be voting for any nominees from the White House other than diversity nominees,” Duckworth said according to HuffPost. “I’ll be a ‘No’ on everyone until they figure this out.”
Duckworth added that her stance includes her promise to vote in favor of racial minorities and LGBTQ individuals.
According to Politico, Duckworth cited a Monday evening call between Senate Democrats and Biden aides that served as the “trigger” behind her ultimatum to the President.
Politico reported that Duckworth recalled White House deputy chief of staff Jen O’Malley Dillon referring to Vice President Kamala Harris’ South Asian American heritage during the Monday evening call, which Duckworth found “incredibly insulting.”
According to HuffPost, Duckworth suggested that the Biden administration should consider AAPI nominees to lead the FCC or the Office of Management and Budget, following the withdrawal of Neera Tanden’s nomination to serve as OMB chief. Duckworth also suggested the position of assistant secretary of defense as another option for more AAPI representation in Biden’s Cabinet.
Duckworth’s opposition to “non-diversity nominees” could potentially pose obstacles in a 50-50 Senate where Democrats have zero margin of error to confirm the President’s Cabinet picks.
Duckworth has pushed the Biden administration to nominate a person of AAPI descent to the President’s Cabinet for months. None of Biden’s 15 confirmed Cabinet secretaries are of AAPI descent.
Despite the lack of AAPI representation in Biden’s Cabinet, the Senate confirmed Katherine Tai last week as the first Asian-American and first woman of color to serve as U.S. trade representative. Although the office of U.S. trade representative is technically considered a Cabinet-level position, advocates argue that Biden needs to do better in pushing forward with an AAPI Cabinet secretary.
Duckworth’s ultimatum to Biden also comes on the heels of a series of mass shootings at Atlanta-area spas last week that took the lives of six women of Asian-descent and two others. During a House Judiciary Subcommittee hearing held days after the Atlanta shootings, Democrats, including Duckworth, bluntly tied former President Trump’s racist and xenophobic rhetoric on COVID-19 to the rise in anti-Asian attacks nationwide.