AOC criticizes Manchin over apparent targeting of Biden’s nominees of color
Congresswoman wades into debate amid growing concerns nominees from minority backgrounds are being singled out for harsh scrutiny Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in Texas on 20 Feburary 2021. Photograph: Reginald Mathalone/NurPhoto/Rex/Shutterstock Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has stepped into the intensifying dispute around the treatment of women and people of color nominated to top jobs in the Biden administration, as the confirmation process in the US Senate begins to sour. The leftwing Democratic congresswoman waded into the debate amid growing concerns in progressive circles that Joe Biden’s nominees from minority backgrounds are being singled out for especially harsh scrutiny. Several women of color are facing daunting hurdles to confirmation with Republicans withholding backing and the Democratic majority in the Senate imperiled by the opposition of the conservative Democrat, Joe Manchin. The senator from West Virginia announced on Friday he would oppose the candidacy of Neera Tanden to become the first Asian American woman to fill the post of budget director. On Monday he also indicated that he was having doubts about Deb Haaland, who would become the first Native woman to take a cabinet seat. With the Senate evenly divided at 50-50 seats, Manchin’s no vote can only be overturned if moderate Republicans can be found willing to back the nominees. So far, however, such cross-aisle support has been hard to find, with Susan Collins of Maine, Mitt Romney of Utah and Rob Portman of Ohio all expressing likely opposition to Tanden. In a tweet on Monday, Ocasio-Cortez turned the spotlight onto the record of Manchin himself. She pointed out that the Democratic senator had voted to confirm Jeff Sessions as Donald Trump’s first attorney general despite the fact that the former senator from Alabama was dogged with accusations of racism throughout his career. “Jeff Sessions was so openly racist that even Reagan couldn’t appoint him,” Ocasio-Cortez said, adding that as attorney general, Sessions went on to preside over the brutal family separation policy at the US border with Mexico. “Yet the first Native woman to be Cabinet Sec is where Manchin finds unease?” she posted. The apparent targeting of Biden’s nominees of color has started to generate mounting frustration and anger. Judy Chu, a Democratic congresswoman who leads the Congressional Asian Pacific American caucus, told Politico that “there’s a double standard going on” in the treatment of Tanden whose prospects of leading the Office of Management and Budget are now dwindling. The president of the NAACP, Derrick Johnson, told Politico that the outcome of the confirmation votes would make clear “whether or not those individuals who are women or people of color are receiving a different level of scrutiny. I hope we will course-correct, quickly, and not allow that to be a legacy of the Senate”. The sense of unequal treatment has been heightened by the heavy focus by Manchin and others on Tanden’s Twitter feed. In her current role as president of the left-leaning Center for American Progress, she frequently posted spiky and direct tweets without mincing her words, more than 1,000 of which she has since deleted. Tanden notably called Collins, one of the Republican senators who has declined to come to her rescue, “the worst”. Yet Manchin was content to confirm some of Trump’s nominees with highly controversial social media histories, while Trump himself made many racist and sexist tweets and is now permanently suspended from Twitter. “We can disagree with her tweets, but in the past, Trump nominees that they’ve confirmed and supported had much more serious issues and conflicts than just something that was written on Twitter,” the Democratic congresswoman Grace Meng told Politico.