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White House names Erika Moritsugu to Asian American liaison position

The Biden administration on Wednesday announced Erika Moritsugu will hold a senior-level Asian American liaison position. The White House issued a statement that Moritsugu is being named as the deputy assistant to the President and Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Senior Liaison.

The White House committed to creating the new role amid pressure from Democratic Senators Tammy Duckworth of Illinois and Mazie Hirono of Hawaii over the lack of Asian American and Pacific Islander representation in the president's Cabinet and in senior roles in the administration.

In March, the lawmakers threatened to oppose President Biden's nominees who were not diverse until the Biden administration would elevate Asian American voices to more senior roles in the government. After conversations with the White House, both senators dropped their pledge to withhold confirming non-diverse nominees.

In a statement, Duckworth applauded Moritsugu being selected to the new senior level AAPI liaison position and pointed to Moritsugu's experience in the legislative and executive branches.

"I know first-hand that President Biden will benefit from her counsel, policy expertise and strong relationship-building skills, especially as his Administration seeks to make sure AAPI leaders are present at the highest levels of government," Duckworth said. "I look forward to working with her to build on and expand the Biden's Administration's efforts to protect and empower the AAPI community."

Most recently, Moritsugu was the vice president at the National Partnership for Women & Families. As vice president, she led the organization's economic justice team and was a leader on the congressional relations team. Previously, she was the vice president of government relations, advocacy and community engagement at the Anti-Defamation League.

Moritsugu has experience in federal government and on Capitol Hill as well. She served as general counsel to Duckworth and was the deputy legislative director to former Senator Danny Akaka of Hawaii. She also served in the Senate Democratic Policy Committee under former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. She was confirmed by the Senate to be assistant Secretary for Congressional and Intergovernmental Relations at the Department of Housing and Urban Development during the Obama administration. She also served at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau as a deputy assistant director for legislative affairs. 

The announcement is expected to come as anti-Asian hate crimes legislation, introduced by Hirono and Democratic Congresswoman Grace Meng, is moving through the Senate and the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus is expected to meet with White House officials on Thursday. Moritsugu is not expected to attend the CAPAC meeting. 

"We are getting much closer to having news to share on that high level personnel announcement," White House press secretary Jen Psaki said  Wednesday. "I don't expect that person will be attending tomorrow but hopefully we'll have more to share soon."

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