Hirono And Duckworth Threaten ‘No’ Votes Over Lack Of Diversity
UPDATED The Democratic senators quickly backed down from their threat to vote against President Joe Biden’s nominees after receiving assurances from the White House to bring on a senior Asian American and Pacific Islander advisor.
WASHINGTON — Hawaii Sen. Mazie Hirono and U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth, who went to high school and college on Oahu, have vowed to vote against President Joe Biden’s nominees in protest of a lack of diversity among senior staff and Cabinet officials.
The senators made the announcement to reporters Tuesday on Capitol Hill, saying specifically that they were upset that Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders were not appointed to key positions in the administration.
“There’s not a single AAPI in a Cabinet position,” Duckworth told reporters, according to NPR. “That’s unacceptable.”
Duckworth, who represents Illinois, said she had talked with senior Biden staffers about her concerns and that during one of those discussions a staffer pointed out that Vice President Kamala Harris was of South Asian descent.
“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.
“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?”
NPR reported that Hirono joined in Duckworth’s protest and promised to vote no on any non-diverse appointment that comes before the Senate until the White House commits to more diversity.
“This is not about pitting one diversity group against another,” Hirono told reporters. “So I’m happy to vote for a Hispanic, a Black person, an LGBTQ person, an AAPI person. I’d just like to see more diversity representation.”
With the 50-50 split in the Senate, a no vote from either Duckworth or Hirono could spell trouble for the Biden administration if Republicans stick together in opposition, although it’s unclear if either Democrat would follow through should such a scenario play out.
Biden’s cabinet has been lauded as being one of the most diverse in history, according to numerous outlets including NPR, which published an analysis in February finding the current president outpaced his predecessors Donald Trump and Barack Obama both in race and gender.
UDPATE: Hirono and Duckworth backed off their threat to vote against Biden’s nominees late Tuesday after the White House agreed to bring on a senior AAPI advisor.
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