Asian lawmakers set sights on Biden's Labor secretary pick

Asian lawmakers set sights on Biden's Labor secretary pick
© Getty Images

Asian American lawmakers are focusing their lobbying efforts on President-elect Joe BidenJoe BidenTrump State Department appointee arrested in connection with Capitol riot FireEye finds evidence Chinese hackers exploited Microsoft email app flaw since January Biden officials to travel to border amid influx of young migrants MORE's pick to lead the Labor Department as they fight to ensure Asian American and Pacific Islanders are not shut out from a “secretary” role for the first time in two decades.

The Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC), led by Chair Judy ChuJudy May ChuBiden to nominate Obama alum Ahuja to lead Office of Personnel Management Pelosi, lawmakers denounce violence against Asian Americans Why Biden's diversity efforts fall flat MORE (D-Calif.), is aggressively pushing Biden to nominate Julie Su, California’s secretary of Labor and Workforce Development and the daughter of Chinese immigrants, as his Labor secretary.

“We strongly support Julie Su for the position of Secretary of Labor and urge President-elect Biden to nominate her to fill this critical vacancy in his administration. Not only would Julie bring greater diversity to the Cabinet, but she is also the most qualified person for the job,” CAPAC wrote in a statement.


“As both a woman of color and the daughter of immigrants, Secretary Su would bring a diversity of thought and experience to the Cabinet. She has dedicated her career to the advancement of workers’ rights, fair labor practices, and advancing equity and opportunities for all workers, including the most vulnerable who are often overlooked,” the caucus wrote.

The Asian American lawmakers shifted their focus to the Labor slot on Wednesday after Biden nominated Pete ButtigiegPete ButtigiegThe Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by ExxonMobil - Increased security on Capitol Hill amid QAnon's March 4 date Biden to meet with bipartisan lawmakers on infrastructure The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Lawmakers face Capitol threat as senators line up votes for relief bill MORE as Transportation secretary, further rounding out top leadership posts in his administration.

CAPAC had been urging Biden to name David. S. Kim, California’s Transportation secretary, to lead the federal Department of Transportation. But at a news conference Wednesday, Biden introduced Buttigieg, a former Indiana mayor and one-time presidential rival, as his nominee for Transportation secretary. Buttigieg is openly gay and would make history as the first openly gay Cabinet secretary to be confirmed by the Senate.

Under fire, Biden transition officials have pointed out that the president-elect has already named several Asian American and Pacific Islanders to Cabinet posts and other top roles. They include Center for American Progress President Neera TandenNeera TandenOvernight Defense: Capitol Police may ask National Guard to stay | Biden's Pentagon policy nominee faces criticism | Naval Academy midshipmen moved to hotels White House says Shalanda Young could serve as acting OMB director Republicans blast Pentagon policy nominee over tweets, Iran nuclear deal MORE as director of the Office of Management and Budget; Katherine TaiKatherine TaiUS, UK suspend retaliatory tariffs for four months Here's who Biden is now considering for budget chief Senate panel unanimously advances top Biden economic nominees MORE as U.S. trade representative, a Cabinet-level position; and Vivek MurthyVivek MurthyMurthy vows to focus on mental health effects of pandemic if confirmed as surgeon general The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by The AIDS Institute - Senate ref axes minimum wage, House votes today on relief bill Watch live: Biden surgeon general pick testifies at confirmation hearing MORE, who will return to his former role as U.S. surgeon general. Surgeon general is not a Cabinet-level post, though CAPAC had pressed Biden officials to elevate it to no avail.

Biden did tap Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala Harris Harris speaks with Netanyahu amid ICC probe Senate votes to take up COVID-19 relief bill Why is Joe Biden dodging the public and the press? MORE (D-Calif.), the daughter of an Indian immigrant and a CAPAC board member herself, as his running mate. She’s now the vice president-elect and will sit in his Cabinet.


But none of those positions come with a “secretary” title or responsibilities for running a large federal agency.

The window is quickly closing for Asian American and Pacific Islanders. There are only eight Cabinet or Cabinet-level positions that Biden has yet to fill after he named Buttigieg as Transportation secretary and former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm as Energy secretary this week. Remaining posts include attorney general; secretaries of Commerce, Education, Interior and Labor; Small Business and Environmental Protection Agency administrators; and CIA director.

Asian lawmakers noted that former President Obama, whom Biden served with as vice president for eight years, kicked off his first term with a record three Asian American and Pacific Islander Cabinet secretaries: Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, Energy Secretary Steven Chu and Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric ShinsekiEric Ken ShinsekiWhy aren't more Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in Biden's Cabinet? Biden VA pick faces 'steep learning curve' at massive agency Biden nominee: VA staff hampered by 'mismanagement' MORE. President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump State Department appointee arrested in connection with Capitol riot Intelligence community investigating links between lawmakers, Capitol rioters Michelle Obama slams 'partisan actions' to 'curtail access to ballot box' MORE had one Asian American and Pacific Islander Cabinet secretary: Transportation Secretary Elaine ChaoElaine ChaoDOJ declined to take up Chao ethics probe Parliamentarian strikes down Pelosi priority in aid package The Hill's Morning Report - Biden on COVID-19: Next year Americans will be 'better off' MORE.

“President-Elect Biden promised to build an inclusive government that reflects the full diversity of our nation and that must include AAPIs,” CAPAC said, in reference to Asian American and Pacific Islanders. “For over two decades, there has always been at least one AAPI Cabinet Secretary under both Democratic and Republican administrations. We urge President-elect Biden to continue this progress by nominating Julie Sue as the next U.S. Secretary of Labor.”