President Obama had Energy Secretary Steven Chu, Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, and Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki.
President Clinton had Commerce Secretary Norm Mineta, who later became Transportation Secretary under George W. Bush. There was also Labor Secretary Elaine Chao—who was later brought back by President Trump as Transportation Secretary.
But under President Biden—crickets.
Though U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai holds a Cabinet-level position, the Biden administration is the first in 20 years without an Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Cabinet Secretary.
This time last year, Democratic Senators Tammy Duckworth of Illinois and Mazie Hirono of Hawaii said they would block Biden’s Cabinet nominees because of the lack of AAPI representation in his Cabinet. They dropped their objections after the administration announced the creation of the Asian American and Pacific Islander liaison position, occupied by Erika Moritsugu.
Still, more than a year into his administration, Biden’s Cabinet is without an AAPI Secretary.
The president is coming to the Pacific Northwest this week, visiting both Portland and Seattle in his first visit to the region as president. Biden last visited Seattle in November 2019 while campaigning in the Democratic presidential primaries.
Perhaps he has forgotten who helped to get him elected.
Remember when Biden won in Georgia with less than a 13,000-vote lead? That tiny margin was made possible, in part, by historic turnout among AAPI voters in that state.
Yes, Kamala Harris, the vice president, is of South Asian descent.
But the claim that the Asian American community doesn’t need anybody else is insulting, and as Duckworth has previously stated, “that is not something you would say to the Black caucus.”
Moritsugu was a great start. We also appreciate the creation of the White House Initiative on Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders, and the appointment of many members of the AAPI community in the administration.
Now Mr. President, there are more than enough qualified individuals to step into any of the Secretary roles in your Cabinet.
It is time and it is long overdue.