- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 15, 2020

A leading Hispanic group said Tuesday that Joseph R. Biden, the presumptive president-elect, must name at least five Hispanics to his Cabinet in a nod to the diversity of the coalition that powered him in last week’s election.

The demand by the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials is a dramatic early marker in what is shaping up to be a nasty fight among branches of the Democratic coalition over who will occupy positions of power with a new administration.

NALEO President Ricardo Lara said that in addition to the Cabinet posts, the group wants a Hispanic quota for the more than 4,000 political appointees in a Biden administration. Given the economic situation, the coronavirus crisis and other pressing needs, the community needs to have a significant voice, he said.

“A key way to do that is by appointing Latinos to at least five Cabinet-level positions and at least 29% of positions throughout the administration,” he said.

Mr. Biden has been projected the winner of the election and is pushing ahead with transition plans, though President Trump is contesting results in several key states.

In a city where personnel is policy, Mr. Biden is being tugged in all directions by the branches of the Democratic coalition that are demanding payoffs for power.

For a party built on identity-based interests, building a Cabinet that gives each its due will be tricky.

Liberal activists are pressing to have Mr. Biden tap someone from the far left to top economic posts such as secretary at the Labor or Treasury departments.

One of the names they would like to see is Sen. Bernard Sanders, Mr. Biden’s chief rival for the Democratic presidential nomination and someone Mr. Biden has labeled “the socialist.”

The senator from Vermont, an independent who caucuses with Democrats, didn’t deny an interest in a Cabinet post, but he said this week that there are “too many factors” to give an answer.

“There is no doubt in my mind that the progressive community deserves strong representation in the Biden administration,” he said. “Millions of people support our agenda. We are an important part, a critical part of the Democratic coalition and progressives should be represented.”

Moderate Democrats, though, say it was the liberal messaging that dented the party’s chance of taking control of the Senate and cost seats in the House.

Hispanics say they have a particular beef after being shut out of top posts in past administrations.

“Ultimately, we urge you to appoint no less than five Latinos to Cabinet-level positions, to at minimum surpass the highest number of Latinos ever serving at one time in such positions in a presidential administration,” Mr. Lara wrote in a letter to Mr. Biden.

The record was four posts during President Obama’s second term.

The government has 15 Cabinet-level departments and a half-dozen or so other agencies that are considered Cabinet-rank.

Some groups are playing defense over potential names.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, New York Democrat, has declared Rahm Emanuel too “divisive” for a top post. She said liberals would see a “hostile” move if the former congressman, White House chief of staff and Chicago mayor is appointed.

Justice Democrats ran a signature drive last month to oppose any Republicans in a Biden Cabinet.

“This country is calling out desperately for Medicare for All, a Green New Deal, student and medical debt cancellation, and so much more. If Republicans are appointed to a Biden Cabinet, it makes our progressive priorities even more difficult to achieve,” Justice Democrats said.

Complicating matters will be the need for Mr. Biden’s picks to get through what is likely to be a Republican-controlled Senate.

Even senators and former senators, who traditionally had been given kid-glove treatment by their colleagues when nominated, are no longer sure bets.

Then-Sen. Jeff Sessions was accused of being racist during his 2017 confirmation to be attorney general. One of his accusers was Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat who is now on liberals’ fantasy Cabinet draft list.

Ms. Warren’s chances could be complicated by circumstances in her state, where a Republican governor would name a replacement should she give up her Senate seat.

Vermont, Mr. Sanders’ home, also has a Republican governor, though he has said he would name someone with a left-leaning bent to replace the liberal crusader should Mr. Sanders depart for the Cabinet.

NALEO’s Hispanic quota adds a new wrinkle to the wrangling.

Hispanics make up 18.5% of the total U.S. population, though they represent a significantly smaller share of voters. The Black population is smaller. Just 13.4% claim only Black or African American origin.

There is also some overlap of Black Hispanics.

LGBTQ groups are likely to demand representation in the Cabinet, though that could be easy to fulfill. Pete Buttigieg, a dynamic Democrat who competed with Mr. Biden for the presidential nomination, is reportedly a lock for a chair in the White House Cabinet Room.

Sen. Doug Jones, who was trounced in his reelection bid in Alabama last week, was fielding reporters’ questions this week about a Cabinet post.

“There’s a lot of talented people out there,” he said. “There’s a lot of folks that are going to be trying to do what’s the right thing to try to get this country healed, the divisions healed. If I can contribute, great.”

One Senate seat that will have to be filled is that of Kamala D. Harris in California as she assumes the role of vice president.

Democracy for America, a leading liberal advocacy group, demanded that Gov. Gavin Newsom appoint a Black woman to replace Ms. Harris as payback for the role of Black women in Democrats’ presidential victory.


• Stephen Dinan can be reached at sdinan@washingtontimes.com.

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