Senators back off vow to withhold support of Biden nominees

FILE - In this May 6, 2020, file photo, Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., speaks during a hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington. Duckworth says the lack of Asian American or Pacific Islander representation in President Joe Bidens cabinet is not acceptable and is threatening to withhold her vote on key nominations until the administration addresses the matter. (Greg Nash/Pool via AP)
FILE - In this May 6, 2020, file photo, Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., speaks during a hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington. Duckworth says the lack of Asian American or Pacific Islander representation in President Joe Bidens cabinet is not acceptable and is threatening to withhold her vote on key nominations until the administration addresses the matter. (Greg Nash/Pool via AP) (The Hill)

Two Democratic senators who said they would not support President Joe Biden's nominations to fill administration posts until the White House better promoted diversity reversed their stances Tuesday after the White House said it would add an Asian American Pacific Islander liaison to its staff.

Sens. Tammy of Duckworth of Illinois and Mazie Hirono of Hawaii had lashed out earlier in the day at the lack of Asian American and Pacific Islander representation in Biden's Cabinet. The only senators of Asian American heritage, they said they would withhold their support for his nominees until the diversity issue was addressed.

With the announcement of the liaison Tuesday night, Duckworth's spokesman said the senator would not stand in the way of “qualified nominees — which will include more AAPI leaders.”

“Senator Duckworth appreciates the Biden Administration’s assurances that it will do much more to elevate AAPI voices and perspectives at the highest levels of government, including appointing an AAPI senior White House official to represent the community, secure the confirmation of AAPI appointments and advance policy proposals that are relevant and important to the community,” spokesperson Ben Garmisa said in a statement.

Duckworth had said earlier that she raised the issue with top Biden advisers on Tuesday and afterward called the situation “not acceptable."

“I’ve been talking to them for months and they’re still not aggressive, so I’m not going to be voting for any nominee from the White House other than diversity nominees,” Duckworth told reporters. “I’ll be a no on everyone until they figure this out.”

That had prompted Hirono to join her. But Hirono later said in a statement of her own that she too welcomed the appointment of an AAPI White House liaison and was dropping her objections.

“Based on the private conversation we had, I will continue voting to confirm the historic and highly qualified nominees President Biden has appointed to serve in his administration,” Hirono said.