Top brass from Joe Biden’s transition team are meeting with members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus as the president-elect faces growing and critical pressure from various interest groups about who he nominates to run major agencies in his incoming administration.
Biden’s pick for chief of staff, Ron Klain, the head of his transition team, Ted Kaufman, and Jeff Zients, another top adviser, are slated to meet members of members of the CHC on Thursday, according to five Democrats with knowledge of the meeting.
The agenda for the call is unclear but it comes as the CHC, a powerful set of Latino members of Congress, push for Biden to install a Latino person to lead a major federal agency. The progressive champion, New York congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, has also said that Biden and Democrats at large have to do more to win over Latino voters in the wake of the 2020 election. Biden and Democratic candidates struggled to win their support, especially Cuban Americans in Florida, a crucial battleground state.
Over the weekend the CHC sent a letter to the Biden transition team urging him to nominate Michelle Lujan Grisham, the New Mexico governor, to be secretary of health and human services.
That letter is part of a broader push for Biden to put more Latino people in his cabinet. The letter hailed Biden for choosing Alejandro Mayorkas, a former deputy secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, to run that agency as secretary.
The meeting, over Zoom, is invite-only and for the members themselves, according to one Democrat with knowledge of the call.
A Democrat close to the transition noted that the transition team is in regular contact with both members of the CHC and a range of other organizations “to discuss planning for the incoming administration, including how to ensure the federal government looks like and reflects the breadth and diversity of America”.
Lujan Grisham has been mentioned as a possible HHS secretary alongside Vivek Murthy, the former surgeon general of the United States, and Dr Mandy Cohen, the secretary of the North Carolina department of health and human services.
On Wednesday, reports surfaced that Lujan Grisham was offered a job as secretary of the Department of the Interior but turned that offer down. But two other Democrats with knowledge of those discussions denied that happened without offering further details.
Biden himself has promised to make his cabinet the most diverse in history with officials representing all Americans. But even as he has rolled out his nominations he has been met with calls to name more minorities to major cabinet positions.
Last week, the South Carolina congressman Jim Clyburn, one of the most influential African Americans in Congress, said Biden could be adding more African Americans to his cabinet.
The uniting aspect of comments by Ocasio-Cortez and Clyburn is the idea that Biden nominating qualified potential candidates to important cabinet positions could help fulfill Biden’s promise to set up a historically diverse cabinet and it could help Democrats with those voting blocs.