Congressional Black Caucus Chairwoman Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-OH) sent a letter to President Obama raising concerns regarding what she feels is a lack of diversity in Obama’s recent cabinet selections.
President Obama has filled ten vacancies over three months after several departures at the end of his first term. But with ten top positions filled and only three top jobs left, the President has yet to select anyone Black or Hispanic to fill those positions.
“The people you have chosen to appoint in this new term have hardly been reflective of this country’s diversity,” wrote Fudge, who became the new CBC Chair in January. Over the last three months, Fudge advanced the names of Reps. Mel Watt (D-NC), Jim Clyburn (D-SC) and Barbara Lee (D-CA) to be considered for cabinet positions. At a meeting with White House Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett on February 6, the issue also came up.
“Over the past four years, the CBC has recommended a number of qualified candidates. I am disappointed none have received the consideration they deserve,” Fudge told the President. The Congressional Black Caucus has sent suggestions to the White House since 2009.
With two top positions to fill at Commerce and Transportation, Fudge referenced constituent reaction on the issue.
“Congressional Black Caucus offices have had numerous phone calls from constituents questioning why none of the new appointees will be able to speak to the unique needs of African Americans. Their ire is compounded by the overwhelming support you’ve received from the African American community,” Fudge wrote to the President.
The President is expected to select Justice Department official Tom Perez to be his Secretary of Labor. If the President selects Perez, he will be the second Hispanic to serve in Obama’s cabinet after the departure of Ken Salazar as Secretary of Interior.
With close to four years left, President Obama is currently behind Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush regarding the numbers of African Americans and Hispanic Americans in his cabinet. President Clinton selected six African Americans (the most in history) and two Hispanic Americans to top cabinet positions over eight years. President Bush selected four African Americans and three Hispanic Americans over eight years.
To date President Obama has selected only one African American, Attorney General Eric Holder, to serve in his cabinet.
President Obama has received praise for recently choosing three women to serve in top positions as Secretary of Interior, Office of Management and Budget and as Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. President George W. Bush hired the most women to serve in his cabinet of any president in history with six.
With regard to top “cabinet-level” positions, President Obama selected Susan Rice as his UN Ambassador, Lisa Jackson to be EPA Administrator and Ron Kirk as U.S. Trade Representative. Jackson and Kirk have recently departed.
On the matter of the Fudge letter, a White House official said today that President Obama is, “deeply committed to diversity in his cabinet and ensuring his Administration reflects the breadth of our country. He believes that the best decisions are made when he is surrounded by people who share different perspectives as we work toward improving our economy and building a strong middle class together.”