By Andrea Park
Within 48 hours of being declared the next president of the United States, Joe Biden jumped into action. By the morning of Nov. 9, he had launched a new website outlining four central priorities for the beginning of his term, assembled a COVID-19 task force, and, following a meeting with his 13-member, doctor-led team, delivered a briefing outlining his pandemic response plan.
Next up on Biden's agenda for the post-election, pre-inauguration interregnum period is the appointment of the remaining members of his Cabinet. The president is in charge of hiring (and, if you're Donald Trump, repeatedly firing) the Cabinet, which includes the leaders of 15 federal departments, including Education, Justice, State, and Defense, as well as the vice president and a handful of other high-ranking administration officials. Typically, the president-elect begins assembling the Cabinet shortly after being elected so that the Senate can begin holding hearings in early January and confirm the appointments as soon as the presidential term begins.
Biden still has yet to name several members of his Cabinet—but here's everything we know so far about when he'll do so, and who he'll be appointing.
What has Joe Biden said about filling out his Cabinet?
In stark contrast to Trump's overwhelmingly white and male Cabinet, Biden has repeatedly expressed his desire to assemble an advisory group that more accurately reflects the demographics of the country they're serving, a mission that began with the selection of the nation's first Black, Asian-American, female vice president-elect as his running mate.
"I said from the outset I wanted a campaign that represented America, and I think we did that. Now that's what I want the administration to look like," Biden said in his Nov. 7 victory speech after being named the 46th POTUS. And earlier this year, he expanded even more on what that might look like: "Men, women, gay, straight, center, across the board, Black, white, Asian—it really matters that it looks like the country, because everyone brings a slightly different perspective," he said in April.
A diverse administration, then, is expected to be a mix of many women (if not a majority), BIPOC leaders, progressive and moderate Democrats, and potentially even some moderate Republicans, which would support Biden's repeated commitment to work across the aisle. Such a Cabinet could further make history if it includes people of color and/or women at the top of the Treasury and Defense departments, which Politico notes are the two remaining departments that have only ever been led by white men.
Biden will have to be especially strategic in his Cabinet choices, since he wouldn't want to pluck too many Democrats from Congress and risk losing his party's majority in the House of Representatives. Additionally, pending the results of Georgia's two Senate runoffs, the confirmation of those choices could be in the hands of a majority-Republican Senate. If so, Biden may have trouble getting progressive Democrats like Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders into his Cabinet, as evidenced by an interview Lindsey Graham gave on Nov. 6 in which he admitted that Biden "deserves a Cabinet," but warned that "there may be some people that I just can't vote for because I think they're unqualified or too extreme."
Who will be appointed to Joe Biden's Cabinet?
After spending his first week as president-elect focusing on healthcare, Biden has since begun slowly building out the administration that will help him carry out his plans for healthcare and other reforms. He announced several key members of his foreign policy and national security teams, including multiple Cabinet-level posts, on Nov. 23, followed by the leaders of his economic team on Nov. 30, his healthcare team on Dec. 7, and his domestic policy team on Dec. 10. Several more Cabinet positions, however, still have yet to be decided. Appointment decisions are reportedly made based on discussions between Biden, his transition team and close advisers, and his lawyers.
Here's who Biden has chosen or is deciding among for most of the remaining Cabinet-level positions (options for the administrator of the Small Business Administration have yet to be reported), according to official announcements and to predictions compiled by Politico, The New York Times, and USA Today based on information from Biden's team, sources close to the candidates, lobbyists, and general knowledge of the nation's leaders in each area of expertise.
Biden named Klain his chief of staff on Nov. 11. Klain previously served as then-Vice President Biden's chief of staff from 2009 to 2011, and was an adviser on his 1988 and 2008 presidential campaigns. As chief of staff, Klain will oversee and manage the daily activities and operations of the rest of the administration, working as something of a gatekeeper between the president and the Cabinet, Congress, and other political groups.
Blinken, nominated on Nov. 23, will take on the role of Biden's go-to adviser on all matters of foreign policy, including immigration laws. He was the Obama-Biden Administration's Deputy Secretary of State from 2015 to 2017, and also served as Principal Deputy National Security Advisor to President Obama and National Security Advisor to Vice President Biden during Obama's presidency.
If confirmed by the Senate to lead the Department of Homeland Security, Mayorkas, who was born in Cuba, would be the first immigrant and the first Latino to hold the position. Mayorkas, who was also nominated on Nov. 23, was the deputy secretary of the department from 2013 to 2016, after a stint as the director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services during Obama's first term.
Yellen served as the chair of the White House Council of Economic Advisers under President Bill Clinton and was the chair of the Federal Reserve from 2014 to 2018; if confirmed as Treasury Secretary following her Nov. 30 nomination, she'll be the first person in U.S. history to hold all three of those senior economic positions. Additionally, upon her Senate confirmation, she'll become the first woman named to head the Treasury Department since Alexander Hamilton originated the role in 1789.
A retired four-star general, Austin's military service spans more than four decades. He was the 12th commander of the U.S. Central Command and worked closely with then-VP Biden to bring about 150,000 troops home from Iraq. Confirmation of his Dec. 8 nomination would make him the first Black leader of the Department of Defense; throughout his career, he racked up countless other impressive, history-making milestones as the first Black general officer to command a U.S. Army division and lead a corps in combat, command an entire theater of war, serve as vice chief of staff of the army, and serve as commander of U.S. Central Command.
Buttigieg will soon be nominated to lead the U.S. Department of Transportation, multiple sources reported Dec. 15. If confirmed, he will be the nation's first openly gay Cabinet member. The former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, who was also said to be in the running for Secretary of Commerce and Ambassador to the United Nations, will oversee all of America's infrastructure, including highways, airspace, and railroads. Amid the reports of his presumed nomination, however, some Black community leaders from South Bend warned that Buttigieg has a track record of failing to work with communities of color, especially in terms of infrastructure, Politico reports.
The current attorney general of California would be the first Latino to lead the nation's health department if his Dec. 7 nomination is confirmed. Becerra played a key role in the passage of the Affordable Care Act during his time as a U.S. Congressman representing the Golden State, and recently led its defense in a November Supreme Court case.
If confirmed, Vilsack will pick right back up where he left off after eight years as head of the Department of Agriculture under Obama. During that time, he implemented improvements to federal investment in rural communities, public school lunch offerings, and food safety standards, and also led the first-ever White House Rural Council. The Dec. 10 nominee previously served two terms as governor of Iowa.
Fudge, previously the mayor of Warrensville Heights, Ohio, has represented Ohio in the U.S. House of Representatives since 2008, during which time she has led the Congressional Black Caucus and been a part of multiple other congressional caucuses, and dedicated much of her efforts to reducing poverty and inequality. If her Dec. 10 nomination is confirmed, she'll be the first woman to lead HUD in almost half a century, and only the second Black woman to do so.
McDonough has spent much of his career in the national security space. He served as principal deputy national security advisor to President Obama and was chief of staff for the National Security Council; the Dec. 10 nominee also served as chief of staff for almost all of Obama's second term, from 2013 to 2017.
Haines was the first woman to serve as Deputy Director of the CIA, a position she held from 2013 to 2015; if her Nov. 23 nomination is confirmed, she'll also be the first woman to be named Director of National Intelligence. She worked closely with Biden during his years in the Senate and in the Obama administration, and was chosen in June to lead his transition team's National Security and Foreign Policy Team.
Another of Biden's history-making Nov. 30 nominees to his economic team, Tanden could be the first woman of color and first South Asian-American to lead the OMB, which produces the presidential budget and ensures all government agencies' activities align with the president's policies. Tanden has worked on multiple Democratic presidential campaigns since 1988, helped draft the Affordable Care Act, and is currently the president and CEO of the Center for American Progress liberal think tank. However, in light of those roles and other liberal-leaning entries on Tanden's resume, several pundits (and Republican senators) have predicted that Tanden may not be able to gain the votes she needs to be confirmed by the Senate to her assigned Cabinet post.
Tai's confirmation, following her Dec. 10 nomination, will make her the first Asian American and first woman of color to lead the development and coordination of U.S. trade policy. Tai has several years of experience in the office of the U.S. Trade Representative, as associate general counsel and then as chief counsel for China trade enforcement. She currently serves as chief trade counsel to the Congressional Committee on Ways and Means.
Thomas-Greenfield spent 35 years in the U.S. Foreign Service, serving on four continents and working as the Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of African Affairs during Obama's second term. Though the U.S. Ambassador to the UN is not currently a Cabinet-level position, it was raised to Cabinet rank under the Clinton and Obama Administrations, and held onto that distinction for the first half of Trump's presidency, so Thomas-Greenfield's Nov. 23 nomination could very well make her a member of Biden's Cabinet if he chooses to re-promote the position.
Potential candidates: Rohit Chopra; Susan Helper; Meg Whitman; Terry McAuliffe; Mellody Hobson.
Potential candidates: Randi Weingarten; Lily Eskelsen Garcia; Linda Darling-Hammond.
Potential candidates: Washington Gov. Jay Inslee; Rep. Andy Levin, D-Mich.; Ernest Moniz; Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall; Arun Majumdar.
Potential candidates: David Hayes; New Mexico Sen. Martin Heinrich; New Mexico Sen. Tom Udall; Mark Begich; Mark Udall; Arizona Rep. Raul Grijalva; New Mexico Rep. Deb Haaland.
Potential candidates: Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.; William Spriggs; Sharon Block; Julie Su; Rep. Andy Levin, D-Mich.; Sara Nelson; Tom Perez.
Potential candidates: Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.; Sally Yates; Stacey Abrams; Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J.; Preet Bharara; Sen. Doug Jones, D-Ala.; Xavier Becerra; Tom Perez.
Potential candidates: Mary Nichols; Washington Gov. Jay Inslee; Heather McTeer Toney.
Potential candidates: Thomas E. Donilon; Michael Morell.
Andrea Park is a Chicago-based writer and reporter with a near-encyclopedic knowledge of the extended Kardashian-Jenner kingdom, early 2000s rom-coms and celebrity book club selections. She graduated from the Columbia School of Journalism in 2017 and has also written for W, Brides, Glamour, Women's Health, People and more.
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