Asian-American Nominees -- Tammy Duckworth Refuses to Back Biden Nominees Until He Appoints

Senator Tammy Duckworth (D., Ill.) attends a hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., May 6, 2020. (Greg Nash/Reuters)

Senator Tammy Duckworth (D., Ill.) has reportedly given the White House an ultimatum: she will not vote to confirm any of President Biden’s “non-diversity” cabinet nominees until he appoints an Asian-American nominee for key executive branch positions.

“Until then I am a no vote on the floor on all non-diversity nominees” including judicial and sub-cabinet nominees, she reportedly told CBS News’ Nancy Cordes and a number of other reporters.

She has suggested roles in the Federal Communications Commission, Office of Management and Budget, or Department of Defense as potential positions for an AAPI nominee and added that she had offered the campaign and transition team lists of highly qualified Asian American potential nominees six months ago.

Duckworth noted that after threatening to rescind her support for Biden’s candidates, White House senior adviser Steve Richetti told her that “they were committed to figuring it out and that they would get back in touch with me.”

“It’s representation! We have to have diversity at the highest levels of government,” she said.

Duckworth told CNN that she was “insulted” when the White House initially responded to her request for more Asian representation by citing Vice President Kamala Harris, who is part Indian.

“When I asked about AAPI representation in the second part, the first words out of the staff’s mouth is: ‘We’re very proud of Vice President Harris, which is incredibly insulting,” she said. “To be told that you have Kamala Harris, we are proud of her, you don’t need anybody else is insulting…That’s not something you would say to the Black caucus: That you have Kamala, we’re not going to be put any African Americans in the Cabinet, why would you say that to AAPIs?”

Losing Duckworth’s vote could imperil the confirmations of some of Biden’s nominees in an evenly divided Senate where Democrats often cannot afford to lose a single Democratic vote.

Duckworth’s demand comes as elected officials warn of a surge in anti-Asian hate crimes driven by hostility about the coronavirus pandemic, which originated in China. A shooting spree at three Atlanta-area spas last week left eight people dead, including six Asian women.

In the wake of the shooting, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said there is “no question” that the Trump administration’s “damaging rhetoric” has led to “elevated threats against Asian Americans.”

“I think there’s no question that some of the damaging rhetoric that we saw during the prior administration — blaming, calling COVID the ‘Wuhan virus’ or other things led to perceptions of the Asian American community that are inaccurate, unfair and … has elevated threats against Asian Americans,” Psaki said during a press briefing last week.

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