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White House to add AAPI liaison after ultimatum from Senators Hirono, Duckworth

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Two Democratic senators dropped their threat to block President Joe Biden’s nominees after the White House agreed to add a senior-level Asian-American Pacific Islander adviser, amid concerns the community is under-represented in the administration.

FILE PHOTO: Senator Mazie Hirono (D-HI) arrives before a Senate Judiciary Constitution Subcommittee hearing in Washington, U.S., April 10, 2019. REUTERS/Jeenah Moon/

Senator Mazie Hirono wrote on Twitter that she would continue voting to confirm Biden’s nominees after what she called “a productive conversation” with White House officials late on Tuesday.

Senator Tammy Duckworth also welcomed the White House move, and said she would not block Biden’s nominees, CNN reported.

Vice President Kamala Harris, asked about the issue during a CBS interview early Wednesday, said she was proud of Biden’s historically diverse Cabinet. “There’s more work to be done; there’s no question about that,” she added.

Harris is the first Black American, Asian-American and female vice president.

“The White House will add a senior level Asian American Pacific Islander liaison, who will ensure the community’s voice is further represented and heard,” Psaki said in a statement.

No details were immediately available on who would be named to the post.

Duckworth, who is Thai American, and Hirono, who is Japanese American, had told reporters on Tuesday they would vote no on Colin Kahl, Biden’s nominee to be the Pentagon’s top policy adviser, until the Biden committed to a more diverse Cabinet.

Concerns about prejudice in the U.S. AAPI community, already running high after a spike in hate crimes during the COVID-19 pandemic, spiked this month after the Atlanta shootings.

Biden on Tuesday defended his approach to diversity during a visit to Ohio. “We have a lot of Asian Americans that are in the Cabinet and in sub-Cabinet levels,” he said.

One Asian-American candidate, Neera Tanden, withdrew from consideration this month as Biden’s nominee for Office of Management and Budget director after criticism over previous social media posts.

Reporting by Andrea Shalal; additional reporting by Susan Heavey; Editing by Heather Timmons and Jonathan Oatis