Xavier Becerra, Deb Haaland, and Neera Tanden have all faced intense questioning by the Senate. Photo: Getty Images.
Xavier Becerra, Deb Haaland, and Neera Tanden have all faced intense questioning by the Senate. Photo: Getty Images.

Biden’s BIPOC cabinet picks are facing heightened scrutiny compared to white counterparts

This is not “weaponizing identity politics,” as Fox News called it. This is calling-out the double standard.


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Looking closely at how the Senate cabinet confirmations have played out over the past two months,  some have gone without a hiccup, while others have been delayed because of opposition, heightened scrutiny, and vocal statements that, behind the facade of duty, point to bias. 

Onlookers need only to follow the trail of confirmations and hearings to notice the discrepancy. As Annie Linksey for the Washington Post reports, the Biden administration has had very few cabinet leaders confirmed this far into his term compared to previous presidents because of delays.

President Joe Biden made the promise over the campaign trail, to select a record number of officials of color to top posts to “truly reflect” the racial makeup of the nation. 

After months of lobbying, Biden selected four Latinos for cabinet positions. Not a record breaker, but with the compilation of all his picks made it easy to make history.

However, the juxtaposition before the majority-white Senate makes the observation of bias more apparent.

“Many of the president’s Black, Latino, Asian and Native American nominees are encountering more political turbulence than their White counterparts, further drawing out the process of staffing the federal government,” Linksey writes.

Of course, there was an insurrection at the capitol, subsequent impeachment trial, a winter storm in Texas, and an ongoing health crisis to slow things down even further, but all are more reason why the nation shouldn’t be left without top leaders at the helm to support recovery processes and further implement policy.

So far, the Senate has confirmed just 10 out of 22 posts. Seven are white, two are Black, and one is Latino. Half of Biden’s picks are white.

Of the cabinet picks already confirmed, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, who is Black and Alejandro Mayorkas, who is Latino, have received some of the most opposition in their final votes — Greenfield with 20 nays, and Mayorkas scraped by with 43 in his confirmation. 

Meanwhile, Pete Buttigieg was confirmed swiftly,  with 13 nays and little-to-no opposition. He garnered nationwide popularity after his run for president in 2019, which resulted in astronomical political growth. Despite only ever being Mayor of South Bend, Indiana, he was deemed qualified to be the next U.S. Secretary of Transportation. 

Instead of analyzing Buttigieg’s lack of major authority or leadership in his repertoire, the general consensus is he faces a “learning curve” as he takes over an agency with over 50,000 emplolyees and a dozen administrations to oversee the nation's airspace, highways, and more. 

This is not to say that Buttigieg isn’t capable of leading the TPS, but the consensus is a stark contrast to what the nation has witnessed this week in the pending confirmations of California Attorney General Xavier Becerra to lead Health and Human Services, Rep. Deb Haaland (NM) to run the Department of the Interior, and Neera Tanden to run the Office of Management and Budget.

“Becerra and I, throughout our careers, have too often been the only Latinos in the room,” Sen. Alex Padilla (D-CA) said at Becerra’s confirmation hearing. “Sadly, Xavier and I are not unfamiliar with being held to different standards. 

Becerra ran the second-largest department of justice in the country for four years, tackling a broad range of issues, including healthcare and the ongoing pandemic. Health related or not, it’s the very definition of having a proven track record running a department. 

This is without mentioning that the previous administration selected Betsy Devos to run the Department of Education without having any educational experience at all.

Still, it’s not even close to an equation. In the past, qualifications to lead the Department of Health and Human Services never made being a physician one of them.

However, the GOP insists on fixating on Becerra’s pro-abortion stance and that one time he sued a bunch of nuns. Sen. Mitt Romney notably confronted Becerra on his pro-choice stance on abortion, as did others. 

Becerra is also known for suing the Trump administration over 100 times as A.G. of California. 

The GOP Senate is also relying on the formidable power of buzzwords, and what Linskey calls “racially coded language” in her article. 

“Neera Tanden, Deb Haaland, and Xavier Becerra are all extraordinarily qualified.  But these Biden nominees are being targeted  by some in the Senate for their ‘radical views.’ They all happen to be people of color. Coincidence?” tweeted House Democrats Chair Hakeem Jeffries. 

Instead of concrete policy, reputations are being attacked, and in the case of Tanden, is on the verge of destruction for past Twitter posts. She has since apologized for her tweets — ranging from comparing Sen. Mitch McConnell to Voldemort, calling Sen Susan Collins “pathetic,” and proposing that a vampire has “more of a heart than Ted Cruz” — but there again appears a double standard.

Why was the GOP not as vocally angered by the most notorious person on Twitter, President Donald Trump, before he was banned by the platform?

A similar pattern followed with the confirmation hearings for Rep. Haaland. She was met by the staple buzz words of “radical,” as were Becerra and Tanden, but she was also met with condescension, and a negative tone that goes beyond her record.

If confirmed, Haaland would be the first Native American to lead a cabinet agency. She has also been met with some of the most outward scrutiny the hearings have seen as of yet. 

She is an outward proponent of the Green New Deal, and Republicans have expressed deep concerns on her history against fossil fuels, hydraulic fracking, and pipelines that go through native land.

“By nominating Haaland, Biden is embracing far-left special interest groups who do not care what jobs they destroy, do not know the true impacts of their policies, and have no answers on when they can get Americans back to work,” the Republican National Committee wrote in an email urging Senators to vote against her.

As hearings continue, and Biden’s picks are slowly confirmed, the entire spectacle is increasingly met by concern. Notice which confirmations are seeing the most outward opposition before committee hearings despite qualifications. Notice those that are not.

Opponents to this criticism have called it a way to “weaponize identity politics to shield vulnerable Biden nominees,” but the track records of these “vulnerable” nominees speak for themselves. The problem is they’re not taking track records into account. The bias lies elsewhere.


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