Democrat Sens. Duckworth and Hirono Ready to Withhold Support for Biden Nominees Until Asian Picks Put Forward

WASHINGTON, DC - AUGUST 21: Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) speaks during a weekly news conference on Capitol Hill on August 21, 2018 in Washington, DC. Also pictured are Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY). (Photo by Zach Gibson/Getty Images)
Zach Gibson/Getty Images

Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) said she will vote “no” to confirm nominee Colin Kahl for the Pentagon’s top policy chief until President Joe Biden appoints Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) as “nominees to vacant positions.”

When Duckworth asked White House staff about AAPI representation, she was told, “We’re very proud of Vice President Harris,” which Duckworth found “incredibly insulting.” She said until AAPI nominees are appointed to vacant positions, the Office of Budget and Management (OMB), Federal Communications Commission (FCC), or other various cabinet positions, she will remain a “no” vote.

Duckworth lamented the administration’s unimaginative response to her issue: “That’s not something you would say to the Black caucus.”

Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI) echoed Duckworth’s comments, relaying her dissatisfaction with Biden’s “non-diverse nominees.”

“We would like to have a commitment from the White House that there be more diversity representation in the Cabinet and in senior White House positions and until that happens I will be joining her in voting on non-diversity nominees,” Hirono stated.

Duckworth also said Asian American lawmakers were told the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) and White House budget director would be Asian American. “But after Neera Tanden’s nomination collapsed, she said it appears the White House is going in a different direction.”

Duckworth’s statement comes after Colin Kahl faced Senate opposition to his confirmation for tweeting, “they [Republicans] are the party of ethnic cleansing.” Breitbart News reported he is an advocate of the Iran nuclear deal, he opposed Iran sanctions, and he has alleged “involvement in removing a statement affirming Jerusalem as Israel’s capital from the 2012 Democratic Party platform.”

It should also be noted Neera Tanden, of Indian descent, withdrew her nomination for Director of the Office of Management and Budget, saying, “it now seems clear that there is no path forward to gain confirmation, and I do not want continued consideration of my nomination to be a distraction from your other priorities.”

After the nominee’s failure, Biden said he would find a position for her elsewhere in his administration.

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