“That is not something you would say to the Black Caucus — ‘Well, you have Kamala. We’re not going to put any more African-Americans in the cabinet because you have Kamala,’” she told reporters on Tuesday.
“Why would you say it to A.A.P.I.?” she added, referring to Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders.
Ms. Duckworth added that for months, she had given the White House names of possible Asian-American nominees “who never even got a phone call.”
The White House declined to comment. Axios earlier reported details of the Monday exchange.
Ms. Hirono said on Tuesday that she shared Ms. Duckworth’s “frustration.” They are two of only eight Asian-Americans ever to serve in the Senate, including Ms. Harris.
“This is not about pitting one diversity group against another, so I’m happy to vote for a Hispanic, a Black person, an L.G.B.T.Q. person, an A.A.P.I. person,” Ms. Hirono said. Mr. Biden, she added, made a commitment to diversity in his administration, “and that is what we’re calling for.”
- Eight people, including six women of Asian descent, were killed in the Atlanta massage parlor shootings. The suspect’s motives are under investigation, but Asian communities across the United States are on alert because of a surge in attacks against Asian-Americans over the past year.
- A torrent of hate and violence against Asian-Americans around the U.S. began last spring, in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic. Community leaders say the bigotry was spurred by the rhetoric of former President Trump, who referred to the coronavirus as the “China virus.”
- In New York, a wave of xenophobia and violence has been compounded by the economic fallout of the pandemic, which has dealt a severe blow to New York’s Asian-American communities. Many community leaders say racist assaults are being overlooked by the authorities.
- In January, an 84-year-old man from Thailand was violently slammed to the ground in San Francisco, resulting in his death at a hospital two days later. The attack, captured on video, has become a rallying cry.
Ms. Hirono, who is Japanese-American, said she had also pressed the White House to more regularly poll Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders when gauging support for policy proposals, as it would Black Americans, women and other groups.
Democrats have warned for a year that Republicans’ hostility toward China related to the coronavirus pandemic — including former President Donald J. Trump’s references to the “Kung flu” and the “China virus” — was fanning anti-Asian sentiment in the United States. They have started taking more assertive action since last week’s shooting in Atlanta, which left six women of Asian descent dead, pressing their majorities in Congress and the White House to take clearer actions.
Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and the majority leader, said on Tuesday that he would fast-track two Democratic bills aimed at tackling the issue.