A Review of President-elect Joe Biden’s Cabinet Picks

With Inauguration Day nearly a month away, President-elect Joe Biden’s cabinet is taking shape, a mix of familiar names in new roles as well as some newcomers.

The President-elect’s first hire was Ron Klain as White House Chief of Staff. The chief of staff for Joe Biden when he was vice-president and President Barack Obama’ Ebola-response coordinator, Gov. Phil Murphy noted Klain has been used as a resource in dealing with the coronavirus pandemic in New Jersey.

The pick that has had the most adverse to Republicans has been an official advisor to Murphy as well during the pandemic. Neera Tandin, president of the center-left think tank Center for American Progress, will be nominated as Biden’s Office of Management and Budget director. Tandin was one of the members of New Jersey’s Restart and Recovery Commission. Princeton University labor economist Cecilia Rouse will serve as the chair of the Council of Economic Advisers.

Economic Team

The head of Biden’s economic team will be former Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen as Treasury Secretary. Yellen would be the first woman to lead the Department of the Treasury. The President-elect intends to nominate Adewale Adeyemo — who served as a senior economic adviser in the Obama administration and is the current president of the Obama Foundation—as Deputy Treasury Secretary.

Rounding out the econ team are Brian Deese and Katherine Tai being tapped to serve as President-elect Biden’s top White House economic adviser and U.S. Trade Representative, respectively. 

Diplomacy Team

One of the themes of the President-elect during the 2020 campaign was to restore ties across the globe. To accomplish this, longtime aide Antony Blinken has been selected to be Secretary of State. Blinken was Biden’s national security adviser when he was vice president and President Obama’s Deputy Secretary of State from 2015 to 2017.

Diplomacy efforts at the United Nations would be handled by Biden’s nominee to be U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations (U.N.), Linda Thomas-Greenfield. A Foreign Service veteran,  the U.N. ambassador position Thomas-Greenfield will fill is being re-established as a Cabinet position after President Donald Trump demoted it.

Defense Team

The national defense team will be led by retired four-star Army General Lloyd Austin. In addition to Senate confirmation to become Secretary of Defense, Austin will need a congressional waiver in order to nullify the seven-year waiting period between active-duty and government service.

Working alongside Austin would be Secretary of Homeland Security nominee Alejandro Mayorkas. Mayorkas, the deputy secretary of the Department of Homeland Security under Obama, would become the first Latino and immigrant to lead Homeland. As the director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services under Obama, the Cuban-born Mayorkas, previously led the implementation of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

Filling out the national security team will be Avril Haines as director of National Intelligence and Jake Sullivan, who served as Biden’s national security adviser after Blinken, a National Security Adviser.

Another holdover from the Obama Administration but in a new role would be Denis McDonough, nominated to be Secretary of Veterans Affairs. While never having served in the military,  McDonough was reportedly chosen due to his ability to fix the organizational challenges that have befuddled administrations from both parties over the years.

Health Team

With President-elect Biden stating his first concerns domestically is the war on the coronavirus, he has asked Dr. Anthony Fauci to stay on as director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Additionally, Dr. Fauci has been named  as “chief medical adviser on COVID-19 to the President” in the Biden administration.

The cabinet official overseeing the COVID-19 effort would be current California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, the nominee for Health and Human Services Secretary. Becerra will be tasked with reshaping the department amid the pandemic and in the wake of infighting this past year between Trump appointees and public-health officials.

The transition team announced Rochelle Walensky, the chief of infectious diseases at Massachusetts General Hospital, would run the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that the President-select sees playing a pivotal role in helping to stop the spread of the pandemic. On the medical team as well is Vivek Murthy, who will reprise his role as U.S. Surgeon General that he held under President Obama.

Familiar Faces

Another cabinet official reprising his role he held during the Obama administration is former Iowa governor Tom Vilsack. Vilsack has been tapped to lead the Department of Agriculture, the department he headed from 2009 until 2017.

Two noted females in the Obama Administration will have prominent roles under President-elect Biden. Seteran Democratic spokeswoman Jennifer Psaki will serve as White House Press Secretary. Psaki, who served several communications roles in the Obama administration including White House communications director, will lead the first all-female presidential comms team. 

Susan Rice will be the White House Domestic Policy Council’s Director. Rice, whose background was mostly in foreign affairs as she served as Obama’s National Security Advisor and Ambassador to the U.N., will oversee the incoming administration’s immigration, health care, and racial inequality policies. 

With infrastructure investment expected to be a key policy that North Jersey politicians have an eye on as they look to fund the Gateway Project, former Biden Presidential rival Pete Buttigieg is the pick to be Secretary of Transportation. If confirmed by the Senate , the former mayor of South Bend, IN would be  the first openly LGBTQ person to be a cabinet secretary. 

Connecticut Education Commissioner Miguel Cardona will be nominated to be Secretary of Education in the Biden Administration. The selection of Cardona, who has pressed schools to remain open for in-person classes during the pandemic, fulfills the President-elect’s campaign promise to name an educator with public school experience as his nominee for the post as well as adding another Latino to his roster of Cabinet appointees.

Jennifer Granholm is expected to be the choice to lead the Department of Energy. A former Michigan governor, Granholm’s experience is seen as an asset as Biden works to speed-up the transition to electric cars, among other green energy priorities. Another Midwest native, Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-OH) was selected to lead the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Focus on Climate

President-elect Biden’s most recent picks include Michael Regan to lead the Environmental Protection Agency and Rep. Deb Haaland (D-N.M.) as Interior secretary. Regan, a North Carolina environmental regulator, would be the second Black EPA administrator in the agency’s 50-year history, while Rep. Haaland the first Native American cabinet secretary if she is confirmed to the post.

Two new cabinet positions are being developed as President-elect Biden looks to keep his promise to make combating climate change a priority in his administration. John Kerry was appointed as special presidential envoy for climate, a new Cabinet-level role in which the former Secretary of State will attempt to persuade global leaders the United States is prepared to resume its leadership role on subject.

And former Environmental Protection Agency chief and National Resources Defense Council president Gina McCarthy is expected to serve as Biden’s climate czar, coordinating environmental policy throughout the administration.

Nominees still unannounced by the transition team include U.S. Attorney General, CIA, Commerce, Labor and Small Business Administration.

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