Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Democratic leaders are urging President Joe Biden to nominate Filipina American Nani Coloretti to lead the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) amid concerns over the lack of AAPI representation in his Cabinet.
This comes after controversial pick Neera Tanden, who is Indian American, withdrew her nomination as budget chief on March 2, saying “it now seems clear that there is no path forward to gain confirmation.”
AAPI leaders have addressed a letter to Biden — first reported by POLITICO’s Anita Kumar on March 12 — endorsing Coloretti, who was deputy secretary at the Department of Housing and Urban Development during the Obama administration. She was the highest-ranking Fil-Am at the time.
“Our country is facing unprecedented challenges — worldwide pandemic, economic crisis, racial injustice, xenophobia and increase in anti-AAPI violence across the nation. To meet this moment in our nation’s history, we urge you to nominate Ms. Coloretti as the director of OMB,” the letter said.
The Yappie reported that the effort, led by Democratic National Committee AAPI Caucus Chair Bel Leong-Hong, has the support of leaders, such as Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Illinois), Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), and Rep. Grace Meng (D-New York).
They commended Vice President Kamala Harris as the first AAPI and Black woman to hold the second-highest office, but “are troubled by the lack of AAPI representation in your Cabinet.”
Aside from Tanden, Biden has nominated Katherine Tai as U.S. Trade Representative. However, there are concerns over the new administration being the first in 20 years to not have an AAPI in the Cabinet at the secretary level.
“There is only one AAPI member of your Cabinet and no AAPI Cabinet Secretaries. This stands in stark contrast to the last three Administrations which had at least one AAPI Cabinet Secretary. Ms. Coloretti will be an asset to you and a source of pride for us,” the leaders added.
The letter was set to be delivered by organizers to the White House on Friday, March 12, POLITICO said. Fil-Am advocacy groups and organizations like the AAPI Victory Fund and CAPA21 are also joining the effort, according to The Yappie’s report.
If tapped by Biden, Coloretti, who is from Honolulu, Hawaii, would be the first American of Filipino descent to be nominated to a Cabinet-level position.
Previously, she served as deputy secretary at the Department of Housing and Urban Development. She managed the department’s day-to-day operations and cross-cutting program initiatives, including a $45 billion annual budget and approximately 8,000 employees.
During her Senate confirmation hearing in 2014, Coloretti shared how she comes “come from a family with a tradition of community service and one that represents the best of what our country has to offer.” Her maternal grandfather was a minister and a community organizer who advocated for Filipinos working in Hawaii’s sugar cane fields, while her grandmother was among the first wave of nurses working in the U.S. Her mother was also a nurse and later a preschool teacher.
“There are two things I am most proud of: Helping create the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) after the passage of the Dodd-Frank Act in 2011, and helping finish the regulation to guide communities in their efforts to affirmatively further fair housing,” Coloretti told the Asian Journal in a 2016 interview. “In both instances, I was able to help address the conditions for individuals and families that are working to achieve the American dream but who face the challenges of imperfect or unfair markets.”
Before HUD, she spent five years at the Department of the Treasury, most recently as the assistant secretary for management. Prior to the Obama administration, Coloretti spent four years as a policy adviser and budget director for then-San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom.
She is currently the senior vice president for financial and business strategy at think tank Urban Institute.
“I think the broader challenge for me as a Filipino American who is half Filipina is to make sure that my voice can be heard in an effective way. I think it helps that I come from a diverse state of people with different ways of communicating and interacting. I also think that any challenge can also be an opportunity. So, being someone who is different from others in a table can be helpful, particularly if I am operating with both ears open and with curiosity,” Coloretti told the Asian Journal in a 2016 interview.