Lawmakers to Biden: increase cabinet diversity

“We are very, very concerned about the community as a Latin community,” said Texas MP Vicente Gonzalez, who asked for the appointment of at least five Latinos at cabinet level last week.

Advocates and officials from Asia-America and the Pacific Islands warn the Biden administration in writing, “it will be deeply disappointing not to nominate more AAPIs” for cabinet positions. They are increasingly convinced that the president-elect will not agree with President Barack Obama’s top three Asian Americans in his first cabinet.

Meanwhile, the Congressional Black Caucasus is calling on Biden to elect a black defense secretary and increase the number of senior divisions among African Americans.

Together, the critique highlights the challenges the Biden transition faces in meeting the expectations of a historically diverse cabinet. And he underscores the growing demands for equal representation after an presidential election in which Asian Americans made a difference in Georgia, Latinos gave impetus to Biden of Arizona, and black voters drove him to nomination and ultimate victory.

But reassuring everyone can be an almost impossible task, especially given the zero-sum reality of cabinet jockeys and the limited number of top-level positions.

Latin lawmakers and outside groups, for example, are urging New Mexican governor Michelle Lujan Grisham for the health and human services secretariat – but knocking over former U.S.-American surgeon Vivek Murthy could infuriate Asian-American advocacy groups.

“It’s no secret that in terms of the number of nominees … we don’t see too many Asian Americans there, do we?” said Bel Leong-Hong, chairman of the AAPI board of the National Democratic Commission.

The transition team, according to lobbyists there is still time for Biden to fulfill his lofty diversity goals. However, some Democrats are pessimistic after seeing the first rounds of personal selection.

Biden’s White House chief team will be mostly white, including its chief of staff, communications director, press secretary, director of legislative affairs and one of his chief economic advisers. Two of the so-called “Big Four” cabinets – at the top of the State, Finance, Justice and Defense departments – have already been filled by white candidates.

“The real way to write Biden’s history would be to nominate a colored person for one or more of these‘ big fours ’positions, and now they only have two,” said Janet Murguía, president of UnidosUS and a former advisor to President Bill Clinton. “So the black and Latin community will have tremendous control over the remaining two jobs – DoD and Justice – and rightly so.”

A black house lawmaker who asked for anonymity so he could speak more freely when Biden filled positions was more outspoken. “You need to step up,” the legislature said, noting that electing Kamala Harris as vice president does not give Biden an excuse to appoint fewer African Americans to head major departments.

According to Biden’s interim team, the elected president will have a multifaceted administration if everything is said and done. “Its success in finding different voices in developing and implementing its political visions to address our nation’s most difficult challenges will be clear when the full board of nominees and candidates is complete,” said Biden-Harris, interim officer.

True, as the interim official pointed out, Biden “announced several historic and diverse White House appointments and cabinet candidates.” For example, she has appointed a senior communications team of women, as well as the first colored woman to head the Office of Administration and Budget, and the first female candidate to be Secretary to the Minister of Finance.

But in 2020, President Barack Obama’s first cabinet set the standard for diversity well above seven women and 10 non-white officials.

Senior AAPI officials highlight the huge increase in voter turnout among Asian-American voters in the 2020 elections, including in the decisive battlefield states it won, such as Georgia and Arizona, one of the reasons being well represented in the administration. According to Democratic data management company Catalist, voting among early and absent voters among AAPI voters has risen nearly 300 percent in battlefield states this year.

Biden’s transition announced on Monday that Neera Tandent, an Indian-American woman, will be nominated to head the Office of Administration and Budget. Some AAPI officials said they still fear Biden is unlikely to meet the benchmark set by Obama, who has appointed three AAPI candidates to the cabinet at the start of his term.

“We just want to make sure that the Biden administration – and we’ve been conveying this from day one – has a diverse representation, and that diversity includes AAPIs,” said Representative Grace Meng (DN.Y.), DNC . – This is not always fully understood.

The influential congressional Spanish Caucasus has also launched an active pressure campaign.

In phone calls and letters, lawmakers pointed out that transition agency review teams are roughly 11 percent Latino and their COVID-19 advisory board is about 15 percent Latin — each less than about 20 percent of the U.S. Latino population.

And while they have supported Cuban American candidate Alejandro Mayorkas for managing internal security – the first immigrant and the first Latin to hold this position if confirmed – this does not approach the latitude representation of Latinos nationwide.

“When we talk about diversity, we also have to talk about diversity within the Spanish community,” California Democrat Raul Ruiz said. “The vast majority of American Spaniards are American Mexicans, so it would be important and helpful to be represented in the nominations. The experiences of Puerto Rico as well as Cuban Americans and Dominican Americans are also important and should be reflected. “

Gonzalez, a Democrat in Texas, said he warned Democrats to jump in Republican support among Mexican American communities in South Texas and other battlefield states.

“When Republicans come into our district and say, ‘What have the Democrats done for you?’ “And we have a democratic president with a low presence or under-representation of Latinos in his cabinet and government, that’s a tough answer,” Gonzalez said, “I don’t want me to defend that.

In addition to Lujan Grisham, Latin lawmakers support DNC ​​President Tom Perez or California Attorney General Xavier Becerra in leading the Department of Justice. Ruiz’s name was also hovered by some members of the Hispanic Caucus as a possible addition to the Biden administration, given his medical background as a physician.

Several members said members of the Congressional Black Caucasus put pressure on Biden’s transition team on an individual level. Many are taking signals from Clyburn, who is pushing for the election of Ohio Democrat Marcia Fudge as the first black female agricultural secretary.

Representative Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) Said he was closely following Biden’s appointment as head of housing and urban development, pointing out that Democrats had not nominated a black man to head the HUD since 1965, when the department was set up by the president. . Lyndon Johnson. And he echoed other members of the CBC who say former Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson, Secretary of Defense, should be “under a mixed name”.

“I’m not ready to panic,” Cleaver said of representation within the administration, adding that members see Biden as one who understands their demands and the “finesse” of the happiness of a diverse party.

“The philosophy of our participants in the civil rights movement is that even if they are friends, you know, you won’t let go of expressions of anticipation,” Cleaver said. “We expect yes. The right thing to do.”