Posted on March 25, 2021

Duckworth to Vote ‘No’ on Biden Nominees Unless They Are Minorities

Katherine Tully-McManus, Roll Call, March 23, 2021

Sen. Tammy Duckworth is pressuring President Joe Biden to step up Asian American and Pacific Islander representation in top positions of the administration, saying Tuesday that she will not vote for any future nominees who are white and straight until the situation is addressed to her satisfaction.

“I am a no vote on the floor, on all non-diversity nominees. You know, I will vote for racial minorities and I will vote for LGBTQ, but anybody else I’m not voting for,” she told reporters.

“I am not going to be voting for any nominee from the White House, other than diversity nominees, probably a no on everyone until they figure this out,” said Duckworth, one of only two Asian Americans in the Senate.

Duckworth said she informed the White House of her decision Tuesday morning but said she has been advocating on the issue for months.


Duckworth, who was born to a Thai mother of Chinese descent and an American father, was assistant secretary of Veteran Affairs from 2009 to 2011 in the Obama administration. Her name came up as a possible Biden administration nominee for Defense secretary and VA secretary.

With the Senate split 50-50 between Republicans and Democrats, even just one defector on the Democratic side can put nominations and legislation in jeopardy.


Duckworth has support for her move from Hawaii Democratic Sen. Mazie Hirono, the other Asian American in the Senate. Hirono is Japanese American.

“I’m joining her in that, which means that we would like to have a commitment from the White House that there’ll be more diversity representation in the Cabinet, and in senior White House positions. And until that happens, I will join her in voting no on non-diversity nominees,” said Hirono. “We’re not just calling for AAPIs. This is not about pitting one diversity group against another. So I’m happy to vote for a Hispanic, a Black person, an LGBTQ person, an AAPI person,” she said. {snip}


Of the 15 department secretaries, all of whom have been confirmed as of this week, eight are straight white men or women: Antony J. Blinken (State), Janet L. Yellen (Treasury), Merrick Garland (Justice), Tom Vilsack (Agriculture), Gina Raimondo (Commerce), Marty J. Walsh (Labor), Jennifer M. Granholm (Energy) and Denis McDonough (Veterans Affairs).

The other seven would meet Duckworth’s criteria for diversity, being either a racial minority or LGBTQ: Lloyd J. Austin III (Defense), Deb Haaland (Interior), Xavier Becerra (Health and Human Services), Marcia L. Fudge (Housing and Urban Development), Pete Buttigieg (Transportation), Miguel Cardona (Education) and Alejandro Mayorkas (Homeland Security).

At what is considered the Cabinet level on the White House website, there are seven people in their positions and one vacancy. Of those seven, five would meet Duckworth’s diversity criteria: Michael Regan (EPA), Tai (USTR), Linda Thomas-Greenfield (U.S. ambassador to the United Nations), Cecilia Rouse (chair of the Council of Economic Advisers) and Isabel Guzman (Small Business Administration.) The other two would not: Avril Haines (director of national intelligence) and Ron Klain (White House chief of staff). There is a vacancy at the Office of Management and Budget.