Duckworth, Hirono back off ultimatum on nominees over AAPI representation


Two Democratic senators have backed off their threats to block President Biden’s non-minority nominees after getting reassurances from the White House that Asian American and Pacific Islander voices will be prominently heard in the administration.

The White House indicated late Tuesday it will add a senior level AAPI liaison.

A spokesman for Sen. Tammy Duckworth, Illinois Democrat, said the administration is committed to elevating AAPI voices, including “appointing an AAPI senior White House official to represent the community,” securing confirmation of AAPI appointments, and advancing policy proposals “that are relevant and important to the community.”

“Accordingly, she will not stand in the way of President Biden’s qualified nominees — which will include more AAPI leaders,” said spokesman Ben Garmisa.

Sen. Mazie Hirono, a Hawaii Democrat who said she was prepared to join Ms. Duckworth in the blockade, likewise backed off late Tuesday after a “productive” conversation with the White House.

“Based on the private conversation we had, I will continue voting to confirm the historic and highly qualified nominees President Biden has appointed to serve in his administration,” Ms. Hirono said on Twitter.

Earlier Tuesday, the two senators had indicated they would block Mr. Biden’s non-minority nominees after getting frustrated over a lack of AAPI representation in the Cabinet.

Ms. Duckworth had said she heard multiple times that the AAPI community can boast about Vice President Kamala Harris, whose mother is from India and whose father is from Jamaica.

“And that is not something you would say to the Black caucus: well you have Kamala, we’re not going to put any more African-Americans in the Cabinet because you have Kamala,” she said. “Why would you say it to AAPI?”

The threats from the two senators — and swift action from the White House to try to address their concerns — help illustrate that Democrats’ effective control of Washington can hinge on a single senator.

The Senate is divided 50-50 between the two parties, with Ms. Harris serving as the tie-breaking vote.

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