WASHINGTON — It’s a tumultuous time in Washington as the Senate inches closer to the impeachment trial. But one Southern California lawmaker, Rep. Mark Takano, D-Riverside, said there’s one thing both parties can celebrate together: more diversity. This year’s Congress is historic, with more racial and ethnic diversity than ever before.
“Representation matters, and it does make a difference,” Takano said.
Almost a quarter of the 117th Congress’ voting members are minorities, breaking yet another record for the most diverse past six elections in a row. In California, voters elected two Asian American Republican women: Rep. Michelle Steel, R-Huntington Beach, and Rep. Young Kim, R-La Habra.
“It shows that the promise of America is alive and well,” Young said.
Young and Steel beat out their Democratic opponents, but four-term Democratic Congressman Takano said there’s a silver lining to his party’s losses: more Asian American perspective in the House.
“I think it’s a great thing that we have two new women of color,” Takano said.
Takano said if Asian Americans are not in politics, their rights could be overrun. Something he takes personally, he said.
“I can say from my own family’s experience, having had my own parents and grandparents interned in World War II, there was very little diversity in Congress, during pre-war and WWII, the pre-war period,” Takano said. “I think one of the big reasons of why that happened is, there was no representation of Japanese Americans, no representation of any Asian American.
Biden’s administration is also the most diverse Cabinet ever with the first African American to head the Department of Defense, the first Latino as Secretary of Health and Human Services, the second openly gay cabinet member (although first confirmed in the Senate), and the most women in any president’s Cabinet. But Takano said a particular population is blatantly missing.
“My disappointment in the Biden administration is there’s no Madam Secretary and no Mr. Secretary that is of AAPI,” Takano said. “And I think that is a profound omission on President Biden’s part.”
Takano said while he’s let down by the exclusion of Asian American Pacific Islanders, he said he believes Biden is a “decent” and “humble” leader who will listen and work toward greater inclusion.
Next week, Neera Tanden, who is Indian American, is expected to go before Senators as Biden’s nomination to lead the Office of Management and Budget. Then-Sen. Kamala Harris, who is of Indian and Jamaican descent, was chosen and is now the Vice President. Takano has celebrated Harris’ victory.
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