Democratic Sens. Tammy Duckworth of Illinois and Mazie Hirono of Hawaii backed off a threat to oppose non-minority Cabinet nominees put forward by the Biden administration after the White House announced the appointment of a high-level Asian American Pacific Islander liaison.
“I welcome the appointment of a senior level White House liaison to the AAPI community to further strengthen our voice,” Hirono said Tuesday night. “I had a productive conversation with the White House today to make clear my perspective about the importance of diversity in the President’s cabinet.”
Hirono’s statement followed similar remarks from a Duckworth spokesman, who said that she “appreciates the Biden Administration’s assurances that it will do much more to elevate AAPI voices and perspectives at the highest levels of government.”
“Accordingly, she will not stand in the way of President Biden’s qualified nominees – which will include more AAPI leaders,” it added.
Hirono earlier Tuesday joined Duckworth’s opposition to any future Biden non-minority nominees until she received a “commitment from the White House that there be more diversity representation in the Cabinet and in senior White House positions.”
Duckworth initially said Tuesday afternoon that she was “a ‘no’ vote” on “all non-diversity nominees.”
“I will vote for racial minorities and LGBTQ but anybody else, I’m not voting for,” she added.
Following Duckworth and Hirono’s statements, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said that President Biden had made “it clear that his Administration will reflect the diversity of the country.”
“That has always been, and remains our goal,” she added.
The White House needs every Democratic senator to vote in favor of Biden’s nominees if every Republican votes against them, given the Senate’s 50-50 split.
Duckworth and Hirono’s threats follow growing calls from lawmakers and activists to address increasing hostility toward Asian Americans during the coronavirus pandemic. Tensions were heightened further after multiple shootings at massage parlors in Atlanta last week that left six Asian-American women dead.