WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden on Wednesday named Erika Moritsugu, a Capitol Hill veteran and vice president of a women’s rights advocacy group, as his liaison to the Asian American and Pacific Islander community.
In a statement announcing her appointment, the White House said Moritsugu will “be a vital voice to advance the president and the administration’s priorities.”
Biden committed to creating a senior-level role focused on the AAPI community after he received criticism from Democratic Sens. Tammy of Duckworth of Illinois and Mazie Hirono of Hawaii for the lack of Asian American and Pacific Islander representation in his cabinet. The two senators threatened to hold up his nominees unless Biden remedied the situation, but reversed their stance after the White House said it would create the position.
Katherine Tai, who is Taiwanese American, is in the Cabinet as Biden’s top trade envoy. Dr. Vivek Murthy, the son of Indian parents, was confirmed Tuesday as surgeon general, a sub-Cabinet position. And Vice President Kamala Harris is of Indian-American descent as well. But the senators expressed concerns that they had no direct liaison within the White House to make their concerns heard.
Biden is set to meet with the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus at the White House on Thursday, though Moritsugu is not expected to attend, according to two sources granted anonymity to speak freely about internal discussions.
Moritsugu is the vice president for the National Partnership for Women & Families, and prior to that held a number of roles on Capitol Hill, working for Duckworth, former Sen. Daniel Akaka of Hawaii and the Senate Democratic Policy Committee under former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. She also served in the Obama administration as an official at the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
The pick comes as the Senate has taken up legislation aimed at combating anti-Asian hate crimes, in the wake of a raft of violence against Asian Americans over the past month.