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Black caucus renews calls for Obama to show more diversity in Cabinet nominations

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FILE: June 27, 2012: Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., at a ceremony at which the Congressional Gold Medal were awarded to the Montford Point Marines, on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. (REUTERS)

The Congressional Black Caucus renewed calls Monday for President Obama to nominate more blacks to Cabinet posts.

“You have moved forward with new Cabinet appointments and yet, to date, none of them have been African American,” the group's chairwoman, Democratic Ohio Rep. Marcia Fudge, told Obama in a letter. “You have publicly expressed your commitment to retaining diversity within your Cabinet. However, the people you have chosen to appoint in this new term have hardly been reflective of this country’s diversity.”

U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice, who is black, was said to be in the running for for secretary of state, however, Rice withdrew her name because of wavering congressional support, following her misstatements last year in the aftermath of the fatal Sept. 11 terror attacks in Libya.

The caucus' criticism of Obama follows similar concerns about a lack of diversity at the highest levels of the administration.

“It’s embarrassing as hell,” Democratic New York Rep. Charlie Rangel, a founding black caucus member, said in early January.

A week later, during Obama’s final press conference of his first term, he defended his record and asked the public to reserve judgment until he completes his picks.

“I’m very proud that in the first four years we had as diverse, if not more diverse, a White House and a Cabinet than any in history,” he said. “I would just suggest that everybody kind of wait until they’ve seen all my appointments, who’s in the White House staff and who’s in my Cabinet, before they rush to judgment.”

The president's second-term Cabinet nominations so far include corporate executive Sally Jewel for Interior secretary; Ernest Moniz, a physicist of Portuguese descent, for Energy secretary, and two white men who served in the Senate, John Kerry as secretary of state and Chuck Hagel as Defense secretary.  

The Congressional Black Caucus also suggested that everyday black voters are especially upset with Obama, considering their overwhelming support for him in the 2012 election.

In his first term, the president’s Cabinet included one black man, a man of Hawaiian-Japanese descent and four women. They were Attorney General Eric Holder, Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki, Homeland Secretary Janet Napolitano, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Labor Secretary Hilda Solis.

A caucus spokeswoman on Monday named three potential black nominees that Rep. Fudge suggested to the president, all Democrats: North Carolina Rep. Mel Watt for Commerce secretary, California Rep. Barbara Lee for Labor secretary and South Carolina Rep. James Clyburn, for Transportation secretary.