Joe Biden is refusing to commit to appointing a person of color as either attorney general or secretary of defense amid anger from diversity groups, who claim his transition team is ignoring core constituencies within the Democrat Party.
Biden, who has been declared president-elect by multiple media outlets, was asked during a press conference in Wilmington, Delaware, on Friday about the qualms members of the Congressional Black and Hispanic Caucuses have raised about the lack of diversity in his initial cabinet picks.
“Look, it’s each one of these groups’ jobs to push, to push their leaders to make sure there is greater diversity,” Biden said in response. “What I can promise you is that when all is said and done … you’re going to see significant diversity.”
“I’m not going to tell you now exactly what I’m going to do in any department,” the former vice president added. “But I promise you, it will be the single most diverse cabinet, based on race, color, based on gender, that’s ever existed in the United States of America.”
When pushed by the press to make a specific commitment, Biden demurred, saying that he will have the “most diverse cabinet in the main spots, both in the White House as well as cabinet positions.”
The questions come as Biden has unveiled both his economic and national security teams in recent days. Of the two most senior cabinet positions—Secretary of State and Secretary of the Treasury—Biden disappointed by naming a white male and white female, respectively.
Those appointments, while lauded by policy experts and ethics watchdogs, have elicited only concern from progressives and diversity groups. Such activists and organizations worry that Biden will not appoint people of color to high-ranking and senior governmental positions.
Among such groups, the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) and its counterpart, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC), have been the most vocal.
The CHC, in particular, has spoken out publicly in recent days on what it views as disrespectful treatment from Biden’s transition team towards Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-NM). The governor, who previously chaired the CHC as a member of Congress, was reportedly in talks with Biden’s staff about being nominated to serve at the helm of the Department of Health and Human Services.
Lujan Grisham’s appointment has supposedly failed to gain traction among Biden insiders, with some even allegedly leaking to news outlets that the governor was never in serious contention for the post, much to the CHC’s chagrin.
The CHC has made a broad push for a prominent member of the Latino community to be appointed Attorney General. The caucuses’ top two choices, California Attorney General Xavier Beccera and former Labor Secretary Tom Perez, are in contention for the post, but sources close to Biden believe the office will ultimately go to recently defeated Sen. Doug Jones (D-AL).
Similarly, the CBC has ramped up its efforts for Biden to give prominent cabinet positions to black Americans. Leading the charge on the front has been House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-SC), whose endorsement of Biden during the South Carolina primary this year was considered pivotal to the president-elect winning the Democrat nomination.
Clyburn’s lobbying, though, has not seemed to pay off sp far. To date, Biden has only named two blacks to cabinet posts, Wally Adeyemo as deputy secretary of the treasury and Linda Thomas-Greenfield as ambassador to the United Nations.
“From all I hear, black people have been given fair consideration,” Clyburn told the Hill last week. “But there is only one black woman so far.”
“I want to see where the process leads to, what it produces,” the majority whip added. “But so far it’s not good.”