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Sen. Tammy Duckworth. Photo: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) says she plans to join Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) in opposing "non-diversity" nominees until President Biden makes a commitment to appointing Asian American Pacific Islanders (AAPI) in key executive branch positions.

Why it matters: Lawmakers have pressed Biden to nominate AAPIs to Cabinet and Cabinet-level positions since November. Hirono and Duckworth's opposition could also hurt nominations that don't have strong bipartisan support.

  • Duckworth, along with Hirono, confronted a senior White House official this week over the lack of AAPI representation in the administration.
  • Their push comes after shootings in Atlanta killed eight people, including six Asian women, and forced the nation to reckon with anti-Asian violence.
  • With Neera Tanden's nomination no longer in play, U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai is the only AAPI at the Cabinet level.
  • It appears the White House is not considering an AAPI candidate to replace Tanden for the head of the Office of Management and Budget, according to Duckworth.

What they're saying: "When I asked about AAPI representation ... the first words out of the staff mouth was: 'We're very proud of Vice President Harris,' which is incredibly insulting," Duckworth said Tuesday, referring to what White House deputy chief of staff Jen O'Malley Dillon said at a meeting first reported by Axios' Alayna Treene and Jonathan Swan.

  • "That’s not the first time I’ve heard that," she added, noting that she has recommended qualified AAPIs to the White House for six months. They "never even got a phone call," she said.
  • Until she hears a commitment from the White House, whether related to currently open positions like OMB head or future roles, she said she is a "no vote on the floor on all non-diversity nominees," including sub-Cabinet and judicial nominees.
  • "I will vote for racial minorities and I will vote for LGBTQ, but anybody else, I'm not voting for."
    • Considered a reliable White House ally, Duckworth said she already told the administration she will vote no on upcoming confirmations for the deputy secretary of defense and assistant secretary of defense for policy.

Hirono told reporters later Tuesday, "I joined [Duckworth] in our frustration and disappointment that there is not more AAPI representation in the Cabinet."

  • "We're very serious about this because Joe Biden made a commitment to have a diverse Cabinet and diverse White House. ... That is what we're calling for."

The big picture: Despite promising to appoint the "most diverse" Cabinet in U.S. history, Biden's is the first in 20 years without an AAPI Cabinet secretary of any of the executive departments.

Editor's note: This story has been updated with Hirono's statement.

Go deeper

Updated 2 hours ago - World

500 Hong Kong police officers raid pro-democracy newspaper

Chief Operations Officer Chow Tat Kuen (front 2nd R) is escorted by police from the Apple Daily newspaper offices before being put into a waiting vehicle in Hong Kong on Thursday. Photo: Anthony Wallace/AFP via Getty Images

Hong Kong's Apple Daily said 500 police officers searched the pro-democracy newspaper's offices and arrested five senior executives on Thursday.

Why it matters: The arrests of the paper's chief editor, Ryan Law, along with its chief operating officer, two other editors and the CEO of Next Digital, which operates Apple Daily, were made under China's national security law — which gives the government broad power to limit people's political freedom.

World Bank rejects El Salvador's request to help implement bitcoin

President Nayib Bukele, giving a speech in El Salvador's legislative assembly in San Salvado earlier this month, pushed for bitcoin to become legal tender. Photo: Emerson Flores/APHOTOGRAFIA/Getty Images

The World Bank has rejected the government of El Salvador's request to help the country implement Bitcoin as legal tender, Reuters first reported late Wednesday.

Why it matters: The international lender's rejection could hamper the government's goal of making the digital currency accepted across the country within three months.

Updated 6 hours ago - Science

China launches first astronauts to new space station

The manned Shenzhou-12 spacecraft from China's Manned Space Agency onboard the Long March-2F rocket launches at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in Jiuquan, Gansu province, China, on Thursday morning Beijing time. Photo: Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

China's Shenzhou 12 mission carrying three astronauts launched into orbit on Thursday morning Beijing time.

Why it matters: Astronauts Nie Haisheng, Liu Boming and Tang Hongbo are set to occupy China's new space station. This will be the country's longest crewed space mission ever and the first in almost five years.