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Hispanic Caucus ramps up Cabinet pressure campaign

Hispanic Caucus ramps up Cabinet pressure campaign
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President-elect Joe BidenJoe BidenRev. Barber says best way to undercut extremism is with honesty Biden requires international travelers to quarantine upon arrival to US Overnight Defense: House approves waiver for Biden's Pentagon nominee | Biden to seek five-year extension of key arms control pact with Russia | Two more US service members killed by COVID-19 MORE has named a pair of Hispanic Americans to top posts in his Cabinet, but the Congressional Hispanic Caucus is turning up the pressure on the Biden-Harris transition team.

Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) leaders are expected to ask Vice President-elect Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisHarris takes up temporary residence at Blair House Amanda Gorman captures national interest after inauguration performance Democrats formally elect Harrison as new DNC chair MORE during a conference call Thursday afternoon if the incoming administration will commit to naming a Latina to the Cabinet, a source familiar with the call told The Hill.

The call will come one day after the CHC sent Biden separate letters urging him to put a Latina in his Cabinet and name Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom PerezThomas PerezClinton’s top five vice presidential picks Government social programs: Triumph of hope over evidence Labor’s 'wasteful spending and mismanagement” at Workers’ Comp MORE as attorney general. The Congressional Black Caucus, meanwhile, wants Biden to nominate an African American as AG.

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However, the leading contender for the top Justice Department post is outgoing Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ala.), a white lawmaker whose legal career has focused on civil rights.

The new pressure campaign comes amid lingering tensions between the Hispanic Caucus and the transition team. CHC leaders last week lashed out at top transition officials after the Biden team leaked that New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan GrishamMichelle Lynn Lujan GrishamNew Mexico fines two megachurches K each over packed Christmas Eve services CHC urges Biden to choose Latinos to head Education Department, SBA: report Hispanic Caucus ramps up Cabinet pressure campaign MORE (D), a former CHC chairwoman, had turned down the chance to be Biden’s Interior secretary. CHC leaders had been pushing her to be Biden’s Health and Human Services secretary, a role sought by the former New Mexico health official.

Biden’s team went in a different direction — one that still gave CHC something to celebrate. The president-elect tapped California Attorney General Xavier BecerraXavier BecerraOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Court strikes down Trump coal power plant rule | Green groups sue after Trump administration strips bird protections | Trump administration rushes to wrap Arctic oil leases on last day in office 15 states sue EPA over decision not to tighten pollution standard for smog 13 states sue EPA over rule allowing some polluters to follow weaker emissions standards MORE, a former House Democratic leader and prominent CHC member, as Health and Human Services secretary, a key role as the Biden administration responds to the coronavirus pandemic. Earlier, Biden nominated Alejandro MayorkasAlejandro MayorkasWhat Biden's Cabinet picks mean for the hardest-hit US industry Schumer and McConnell trade places, but icy relationship holds Senate confirms Biden's intel chief, giving him first Cabinet official MORE, a Cuban refugee and architect of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, as his Homeland Security secretary. 

“We want to commend you for the nominations of Alejandro Mayorkas as Secretary of Homeland Security and Attorney General Xavier Becerra as Secretary of Health and Human Services. We are glad that this administration has taken initial steps toward having a diverse Cabinet. We are now eager to see the nomination of a Latina to a top-tier position in your Cabinet,” the Hispanic Caucus wrote to Biden in a letter obtained by The Hill.

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“As you continue to finalize your Cabinet, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) would like to reiterate the importance of having Latina/os serve in your Cabinet, at least one Latina/o serve in one of the top four positions, and for a Latina to serve in a top-tier position in the Cabinet,” the lawmakers added. “There are many qualified Latina women who are ready and able to serve their country.”

One of those women is Lily Eskelsen García, whom CHC and scores of Latino groups have endorsed to be Biden’s Education secretary. She is the former president of the National Education Association, one of the largest unions in the country.

Roughly half of the Cabinet seats have not been filled, including posts for Energy, Commerce, Labor and Transportation.