Rep. Jim Clyburn says that Biden should select more Black appointees for high-ranking administration posts

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House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn of South Carolina played a pivotal role in President-elect Joe Biden’s victory in the South Carolina Democratic Primary in February 2020. Spencer Platt/Getty Images
  • Rep. Jim Clyburn of South Carolina, a close ally of Joe Biden, said that the president-elect has fallen short in nominating Black figures to top positions in the administration, according to The Hill.
  • “From all I hear, Black people have been given fair consideration,” Clyburn told The Hill. “But there is only one Black woman so far … I want to see where the process leads to, what it produces. But so far it’s not good.”
  • Black voters overwhelmingly backed Biden in both the Democratic primaries and the general election, and many lawmakers and activists would like to see Black figures represented in key Cabinet positions.
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Democratic Rep. Jim Clyburn of South Carolina, the highest-ranking Black lawmaker in Congress and a close ally of Joe Biden, said that the president-elect has fallen short in nominating Black figures to top positions in the administration, according to The Hill.

Clyburn, the House Majority Whip, said in a recent interview with Hill columnist Juan Williams that Black Americans, who catapulted Biden from the presidential primaries to a general election win against President Donald Trump, have not been well represented in the early picks for Cabinet or senior-level posts.

In the interview, Clyburn praised Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the veteran diplomat who was nominated to serve as US Ambassador to the United Nations but was concerned that there have not been more Black picks, especially among Black females.

“From all I hear, Black people have been given fair consideration,” Clyburn told Williams. “But there is only one Black woman so far … I want to see where the process leads to, what it produces. But so far it’s not good.”

The blunt criticism is especially notable because Clyburn’s endorsement played an outsized role in helping Biden win the South Carolina Democratic Primary decisively, giving him much-needed momentum after lacklustre performances in the Iowa Caucuses and New Hampshire primary earlier this year. The South Carolina brought the former vice president’s candidacy back to life, translating to a slew of Super Tuesday wins, including unexpected victories in states like Massachusetts and Texas.

Forming the Cabinet

There are already a number of historic players who are already helping shape Biden’s presidency.

Biden, who will be inaugurated on January 20, 2021, named much of his national security team last week, which included Thomas-Greenfield, along with Antony Blinken as the designate for Secretary of State and Alejandro Mayorkas as the nominee for Secretary of Homeland Security. Mayorkas is Cuban-American and would be the first Latino to lead the Department of Homeland Security.

Congressman Cedric Richmond of Louisiana, a close ally of Clyburn and the former head of the Congressional Black Caucus, will step down from his House seat in the coming weeks to join the Biden administration as the director of the White House Office of Public Engagement. In his role, Richmond will serve as a senior advisor to Biden, working as a liaison between the White House and Capitol Hill.

Senator Kamala Harris of California, the vice president-elect, will become the first Black and Indian-American woman in US history to ascend to the executive branch.

Linda Thomas-Greenfield
President-elect Joe Biden has nominated veteran diplomat Linda Thomas-Greenfield to become the US Ambassador to the United Nations in his administration. Mark Makela/Getty Images

Clyburn, however, would like to see more Black nominees as the administration is built over the next few weeks and months.

He is pushing for Ohio Rep. Marcia Fudge of Ohio, a well-respected lawmaker who’s served in the House since 2008, to become the country’s next Secretary of Agriculture. In a recent interview with Politico, Fudge made her case for being nominated for the position.

“When you look at what African American women did in particular in this election, you will see that a major part of the reason that this Biden-Harris team won was because of African American women,” she said. “I do believe that because of my work with some of the other ag[riculture] groups, my being from Ohio — where ag is huge — I think [winning support] is not going to be a problem.”

Despite representing an urban district anchored in Cleveland, Clyburn said that Fudge would be well-positioned to take on the role.

“Eighty per cent of Agriculture Department’s work has nothing to do with farming,” Clyburn said to The Hill. “It is food stamps, nutrition, building schools in rural areas, making sure people have broadband, and tele-health programs.”

New Faces

Clyburn is also lobbying for 2020 South Carolina Senate nominee Jaime Harrison to run the Democratic National Committee.

Harrison, a former aide to Clyburn, raised over $US100 million in his high-profile, but unsuccessful bid to defeat GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham, but he is now a familiar face to millions of people across the country.

“We can’t leave our young talent behind on the battlefield,” Clyburn said in the interview.

Clyburn also pushed for former Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown to lead the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and advocated for California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, the first Latino to serve in the position, to become US Attorney General.

An official with the Biden-Harris transition noted that 46% of its staffers are people of colour, with women making up a majority of the staff.

“He has only announced a few White House staff and cabinet nominees to this point, and his success in finding diverse voices to develop and implement his policy vision to tackle our nation’s toughest challenges will be clear when our full slate of appointees and nominees is complete,” the official stated in an email to The Hill.