Two Democratic senators said Tuesday they plan to vote against President Biden’s non-minority nominees to protest the lack of Asian Americans in his Cabinet.
The Senate has already voted to give Mr. Biden essentially his entire top team, but the opposition has the potential to derail some of Mr. Biden’s sub-Cabinet picks.
Sen. Tammy Duckworth, Illinois Democrat, said she’s given the administration plenty of qualified potential Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) nominees who aren’t getting serious consideration.
“They can call me and tell me what their proposal is,” Ms. Duckworth said. “But until then, I am a ‘no’ vote on the floor on all non-diversity nominees … I will vote for racial minorities and I will vote for LGBTQ, but anybody else I’m not voting for.”
She was swiftly joined in her cause by Sen. Mazie Hirono, Hawaii Democrat, who said the White House “obviously” has not been receptive enough to calls for more diversity.
“Otherwise, Tammy and I wouldn’t be taking our position,” Ms. Hirono said on MSNBC.
The president defended the makeup of his Cabinet when asked about the senators’ threats.
“We have the most diverse cabinet in history,” Mr. Biden told reporters while traveling back from Ohio. “We have a lot of Asian Americans that are in the Cabinet and in sub-Cabinet levels.”
Ms. Duckworth said she’s heard multiple times that the AAPI community can boast about Vice President Kamala Harris, whose mother is from India and whose father is from Jamaica.
“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,’” she said. “Why would you say it to AAPI?”
Senate Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin of Illinois seemed unaware of Ms. Duckworth’s latest comments when asked about them by a reporter.
In “a 50-50 Senate, every senator has the power to complicate,” Mr. Durbin said.
Despite the evenly divided chamber, many of Mr. Biden’s picks have been confirmed by comfortable margins.
The Senate on Tuesday voted 57-43 to confirm Dr. Vivek Murthy, who is Indian American, as U.S. Surgeon General. The chamber also voted Tuesday, by a 63-37 margin, to confirm Shalanda Young as deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).
Ms. Young, who is Black, is expected to serve as acting OMB director until Mr. Biden announces a new pick for a permanent director.
The White House had to nix the nomination of Neera Tanden, who is Indian American, to lead OMB after members of both parties raised concerns about Ms. Tanden’s past attacks on lawmakers.
Last week, the Senate voted 98-0 to confirm Katherine Tai, who was born in Taiwan, as U.S. Trade Representative.