But Asian American groups, disappointed with the lack of representation in Biden’s White House, have coalesced behind Nani Coloretti, who served as deputy secretary of housing and urban development in the Obama administration.
Coloretti is the senior vice president for financial and business strategy at the Urban Institute and would be the first American of Filipino descent to be nominated for a Cabinet-level post.
The push for Coloretti by Asian American leaders and groups has become more urgent after the mass shooting in Georgia last week in which six Asian women were killed, and it has revived criticism from Asian American leaders about the lack of representation in a Cabinet position in the Biden administration. The events in Georgia and the advocacy efforts are likely to influence the search for the OMB director, according to people familiar with the matter, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly discuss personnel matters.
Overall, more than half of Biden’s Cabinet members are people of color and just under half are women, far outpacing his predecessors. The Cabinet also includes the first openly gay secretary (transportation chief Pete Buttigieg), the first female secretary of the Treasury (Janet Yellen) and the first Native American to serve in a Cabinet (Interior Secretary Deb Haaland).
The White House declined to comment on the OMB search, but it has signaled that Biden is in no rush to make a decision, even as the administration pursues another round of legislative items totaling $3 trillion in spending. Young is expected to be named acting director after she is confirmed this week.
Initially, Asian American and Pacific Islander groups floated several names to replace Tanden, including Sonal Shah, an Obama White House alumna who served as policy director on Buttigieg’s presidential campaign; Chris Lu, deputy labor secretary in the Obama administration; Felicia Wong, the president and chief executive of the Roosevelt Institute; and former Natural Resources Defense Council president Rhea Suh. But as House Democrats and the Congressional Black Caucus rallied behind Young, the groups felt they needed to unite behind one candidate.
“This one person is highly qualified,” said Shekar Narasimhan, chairman of the AAPI Victory Fund, which is backing Coloretti. “She fits the bill. She worked at OMB as a career official. She’s been confirmed by the Senate. She would be enormously valuable to us if they make the appointment. It sends a very strong signal to our community.”
Narasimhan also highlighted Coloretti’s East Asian background, saying the administration needed to increase representation across the AAPI community.
“We’re not a homogenous community,” he said. “It’s our jobs as leaders to make sure all of our communities are represented.”
This month, Asian American leaders sent a letter to Biden to advocate on Coloretti’s behalf and express frustration about the makeup of the Cabinet.
“Our country is facing unprecedented challenges — worldwide pandemic, economic crisis, racial injustice, xenophobia and increase in anti-AAPI violence across the nation,” they wrote in the letter March 12. “To meet this moment in our nation’s history, we urge you to nominate Ms. Coloretti as the Director of OMB. While we commend you for choosing Vice President Harris as the first AAPI and Black woman to hold that office, we are troubled by the lack of AAPI representation in your Cabinet.”
Tanden, who is Indian American, would have been one of two Asian Americans in the Cabinet. Katherine Tai, who was just confirmed as U.S. trade representative, is now the only Asian American in a nominated Cabinet post.
At the same time, Young’s allies on Capitol Hill, which include House Democratic leaders who made an unusual public statement advocating for her, are looking to keep the pressure on the White House. Young had served as staff director for Democrats on the House Appropriations Committee.
The OMB is a critical White House office that not only oversees the president’s budget but reviews an array of rules and policies throughout the government.
The search for the top job also narrowed Monday when Ann O’Leary, a prominent Democratic policy expert, dropped out of contention. O’Leary was one of three potential candidates initially considered to replace Tanden after she withdrew, along with Young and Gene Sperling, a former top economic adviser to presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.
But Sperling instead joined the administration last week to oversee the implementation of the $1.9 trillion coronavirus stimulus package. O’Leary, a longtime Hillary Clinton adviser who recently finished a stint as chief of staff to California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D), announced Monday she was joining the law firm Jenner & Block as a partner and will teach a law school course at Stanford University.
O’Leary is particularly close with White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain, who was seen as a booster of her bid to join the administration.
“You may be wondering what happened to all those rumors that I was hoping for a job in the Biden Administration,” O’Leary wrote in a Medium blog post announcing her new jobs. “While it is true that public service is in my veins and I would love to serve my country again at the federal level, where I have landed is exactly where I should be right now.”