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How the Congressional Black Caucus views the diversity of Biden’s appointments

As President-elect Joe Biden continues to unroll selections for his Cabinet, some have questioned how diverse his choices have been thus far. Yamiche Alcindor spoke with California Rep. Karen Bass, chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, to learn more.

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  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    We turn now to explore the diversity of the rest of the Biden team with Representative Karen Bass, Democrat of California and the chair of the Congressional Black Caucus.

    Thanks so much for being here.

    There are reports that the Congressional Black Caucus is not happy with the diversity of the Biden-Harris picks so far. And there are also reports that you're pushing for possibly the secretary of defense or possibly the attorney general to be a person of color, an African American.

    How concerned is the CBC about the diversity of the picks now? And are you at all concerned that maybe the picks are not diverse enough?

  • Rep. Karen Bass, D-Calif.:

    Well, first of all, let me tell you what process the CBC is using as a caucus.

    There are 59 members of the Congressional Black Caucus. And so, with a caucus of 59, you are definitely going to have people who have different opinions. So, we have formed a Biden/Harris 100-day task force, where we are collecting names and making recommendations of individuals that we feel should serve in the administration.

    We are in regular contact with the administration. And so we feel that the communication has been strong. We are absolutely elated that two of our members have already been tapped for the administration. First and foremost, of course, is my senator from California, who will be sworn in as the vice president in less than 50 days, and then Cedric Richmond, who is a former chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, who is going to be serving in a very senior way within the administration.

    We do believe that the diversity so far has been terrific, Linda Thomas-Greenfield as the ambassador to the U.N., and then the individual that will be on the Economic Council who will be elevated to a Cabinet position.

    Of course we would like to see other African Americans appointed to key positions such as the attorney general or the defense secretary, but to say that the Congressional Black Caucus is unhappy with the diversity so far, I believe, is an overstatement. I don't believe that is true.

    There are many more appointments that need to be made. And, already, we have seen African Americans in very significant roles.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    You talked through some of the diverse Cabinet picks there.

    There are civil rights groups, like the NAACP, like the Urban League, who are saying that they have requested a meeting with president-elect Biden. They have not gotten one. They're saying they're not getting a seat at the table in the way that they should. What do you make of that?

  • Rep. Karen Bass:

    Well, what I have heard, as of yesterday, is that meeting is being planned, that meeting will take place.

    Now, maybe that meeting should have taken place already, and it hasn't. The civil rights groups are doing what they feel is correct. And I think that that is just fine, and know that they will have a seat at the table and that they will be speaking with the president-elect soon.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    So, when the civil rights groups say that he's not listening to them enough, that he's not maybe putting enough Black people in high-level senior positions, your point is, give him some time?

  • Rep. Karen Bass:

    Well, my point is two things.

    My point is, the Congressional Black Caucus is separate from the civil rights community. We have regular contact with the administration, weekly meetings in our task force, where we are looking at making recommendations.

    And I believe, if the civil rights community has not connected with the administration, they absolutely should, and it's something that should have happened already. The fact that it hasn't, I think I mentioned that I believe a meeting is getting set up now.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Are you concerned about any names floated out there? There's Rahm Emanuel that the NAACP is taking issue with, saying that he has a problematic past when it comes to police shootings.

    Anything that — on your radar that you look at and say, we don't want that person?

  • Rep. Karen Bass:

    I will tell you, we have not had that discussion within the CBC at all.

    We are viewing it more from a proactive stance. We haven't been examining appointments and having opinions one way or another. I know that many of the civil rights groups feel that way.

    And, again, what the civil rights groups are doing, I think, is fine. What the Congressional Black Caucus is doing is different. We have a very specific process.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    There are reports that you're being considered for the Housing and Urban Development secretary and that you may fill the Senate seat being vacated by Senator Harris when she becomes Vice President Harris.

    Can you tell us whether or not you're being considered for any of those positions, especially given that the Senate will have no black women when Senator Harris leaves office?

  • Rep. Karen Bass:

    Well, let me just tell you that I find it interesting because I see in the paper that I'm being considered for all sorts of things.

    I absolutely think there needs to be an African-American woman in the Senate. I mean, the idea that, in the U.S. Senate right now, there are three African-Americans, soon to be just two — and when Senator Harris, soon to be Vice President Harris leaves, there will be one African American Democrat in the Senate.

    And so, of course, I think that that's something that should be addressed.

    As to whether or not I'm under consideration, know that I am interested and willing to serve in whatever area in which I'm tapped. So I want to get in there.

    Whether it's within the House, the administration, the Senate, whatever, I am more than willing to continue to serve.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Well, thank you so much, Congresswoman Bass, chair of the Congressional Black Caucus.

  • Rep. Karen Bass:

    You're welcome.

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