The Biden Cabinet: President-elect builds a team

(Reuters) - Democratic President-elect Joe Biden has begun nominating members of his Cabinet and White House team, working to fulfill his promise to build an administration that reflects the United States' diversity. Biden on Tuesday said he would nominate retired General Lloyd Austin to be his defense secretary. Biden already has named leading members of his foreign policy and economic teams.

Reuters December 10, 2020 00:14:13 IST
The Biden Cabinet: President-elect builds a team

The Biden Cabinet Presidentelect builds a team

(Reuters) - Democratic President-elect Joe Biden has begun nominating members of his Cabinet and White House team, working to fulfill his promise to build an administration that reflects the United States' diversity.

Biden on Tuesday said he would nominate retired General Lloyd Austin to be his defense secretary. Biden already has named leading members of his foreign policy and economic teams.

Biden is expected to nominate Marcia Fudge, a Democratic congresswoman from Ohio, as secretary of housing and urban development and former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack as agriculture secretary.

Here are some recent important picks as well as top contenders for prominent posts, according to Reuters reporting:

DEFENSE SECRETARY: LLOYD AUSTIN

Austin, who oversaw U.S. forces in the Middle East under President Barack Obama, would be the first Black U.S. secretary of defense if the Senate confirms him.

He retired in 2016 and would need a waiver from Congress to take the post because he has been out of the military less than the required seven years.

Austin is known as a shrewd strategist with deep knowledge of the armed forces. But his nomination could draw fire from some progressive groups, given his role in retirement on the board of a number of companies, including weapons maker Raytheon Technologies Corp.

HOUSING AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT: MARCIA FUDGE

Fudge has served in the House of Representatives since 2008. Before being elected to Congress, she was mayor of Warrensville Heights, a Cleveland suburb. If confirmed, Fudge would be the second Black woman to lead HUD, which focuses on federal policy surrounding housing.

AGRICULTURE SECRETARY: TOM VILSACK

Vilsack, who led the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) under then-President Barack Obama, was Iowa's governor from 1999 until 2007. He was an early supporter of Biden and an adviser on rural issues during the former vice president's campaign. Vilsack's return to the USDA is likely to be applauded by Midwestern states that produce the bulk of commodity crops like corn, soybeans and wheat, and prefer him to someone from another region of the country.

HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES SECRETARY: XAVIER BECERRA

The current California attorney general was previously a 12-term congressman who played a key role in passing the Affordable Care Act in Congress. As attorney general, he has led a coalition of 20 states defending the program better known as Obamacare, including in a case before the U.S. Supreme Court last month.

CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION DIRECTOR: DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY

Walensky, currently the chief of infectious diseases at Massachusetts General Hospital and a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, will take a prominent role in the Biden administration's fight against the coronavirus .

Coronavirus COORDINATOR: JEFF ZIENTS

Zients, an economic adviser touted for his managerial skills, was tapped to save the bungled launch of the Affordable Care Act's website for Obama. Under Biden, he will oversee an unprecedented operation to distribute hundreds of millions of doses of a new vaccine, coordinating efforts across multiple federal agencies.

SURGEON GENERAL: VIVEK MURTHY

A physician and former surgeon general, Murthy gained prominence in recent months as co-chairman of Biden's advisory board dealing with the coronavirus pandemic, which the president-elect has pledged to make his top priority.

TREASURY SECRETARY: JANET YELLEN

The former Federal Reserve chair deepened the central bank's focus on workers and inequality. She has remained active in policy debates at the Brookings Institution think tank since Republican President Donald Trump replaced her as head of the central bank in 2018.

OFFICE OF MANAGEMENT AND BUDGET: NEERA TANDEN

Tanden, president of the progressive Center for American Progress think tank, helped create Obamacare, which Republicans want to demolish.

COUNCIL OF ECONOMIC ADVISERS CHAIR: CECILIA ROUSE

Rouse is a labor economist and dean of the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs whose research has focused on the economics of education and tackling wealth inequality. She was a member of Obama's Council of Economic Advisers from 2009 to 2011.

NATIONAL ECONOMIC COUNCIL DIRECTOR: BRIAN DEESE

The Obama administration veteran helped lead efforts to bail out the automotive industry during the 2009 financial crisis and helped negotiate the landmark Paris climate accord.

SECRETARY OF STATE: ANTONY BLINKEN

The longtime Biden confidant served as No. 2 at the State Department and as deputy national security adviser in Obama's administration.

NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: JAKE SULLIVAN

Biden’s national security adviser when he served as vice president to Obama, Sullivan also served as deputy chief of staff to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

HOMELAND SECURITY: ALEJANDRO MAYORKAS

The Cuban-born lawyer will be the first Latino and first immigrant to head the department if confirmed as secretary of homeland security. As head of Citizenship and Immigration Services under Obama, Mayorkas led implementation of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program for "Dreamers": people who were brought to the United States as children. DACA drew Republican criticism and could lead to Republican opposition to Mayorkas in the Senate.

DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: AVRIL HAINES

Deputy national security adviser under Obama, and previously the first woman to serve as CIA deputy director, Haines is Biden's nominee for director of national intelligence. Haines held several posts at Columbia University after leaving the outgoing Obama administration in 2017.

AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD

Biden's nominee to become the next U.S. ambassador to the United Nations is Thomas-Greenfield, who will take on a job that Biden plans to restore to a Cabinet level. She is a Black woman who served as Obama's top diplomat on Africa from 2013 to 2017, leading U.S. policy in Africa south of the Sahara during the West African Ebola outbreak.

SPECIAL PRESIDENTIAL ENVOY FOR CLIMATE: JOHN KERRY

Former U.S. Senator and Secretary of State Kerry will act as “climate czar” in the Biden administration. Kerry helped negotiate the Paris climate deal that Biden wants to re-join.

WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: RON KLAIN

A longtime Biden adviser with experience in responding to the Ebola pandemic, Klain was picked for the chief of staff role that sets the president's agenda.

TOP CONTENDERS

ATTORNEY GENERAL

Doug Jones - A former federal prosecutor with a strong civilrights record, the Democrat won a U.S. Senate seat in a 2017 special election in deeply conservative Alabama. Jones was defeated in the Nov. 3 election by Republican Tommy Tuberville, a former college football coach.

Merrick Garland - A judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, Garland was nominated to the U.S. Supreme Court by President Barack Obama but was never considered by the Republican-controlled Senate.

Sally Yates - A former deputy attorney general, Yates was briefly the acting attorney general early in Trump's term before being fired for insubordination for refusing to defend travel restrictions targeting seven Muslim-majority nations.

Tom Perez - A former labor secretary and onetime head of the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division. His name has been floated, though he might face an uphill battle for confirmation in the U.S. Senate if it remains in Republican control.

ENERGY SECRETARY

Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall - A former adviser to Biden when he was in the Senate, she served in the Obama administration as deputy secretary of energy, where she led an initiative to address cyber and physical challenges to the powergrid. Sherwood-Randall is now a professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology.

Arun Majumdar - He was the first director of the U.S. Department of Energy's agency that promotes and funds research and development of advanced energy technologies, and also served as acting undersecretary of energy from March 2011 to June 2012. He also worked at Alphabet Inc's Google as vice president for energy before joining Stanford University's faculty.

Jay Inslee - He focused on climate change during his failed presidential bid in 2019 and was re-elected to a third term as governor of Washington state this year. Inslee has been pushed for consideration in the Cabinet by environmental activists given his efforts to pass a carbon tax and clean-fuels standard.

Ernest Moniz – He is a nuclear physicist who served as Obama’s second energy secretary. Moniz was a technical expert on Obama’s team that struck the 2015 deal on Iran’s nuclear program and would bring an emphasis on science back to the department. Moniz has been criticized by some environmental groups for his support of natural gas, in an "all of the above" stance on energy that included renewable power, when he was secretary.

ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY

Heather McTeer Toney - A former regional administrator of the EPA under Obama, the clean-air activist is national field director for Moms Clean Air Force. A favorite of progressives, Toney has advocated and trained diverse officials on leadership and climate in over 15 countries, including Kenya, France, Portugal, Nigeria and Senegal.

Mary Nichols - The former assistant administrator for the EPA during Bill Clinton's administration is chairwoman of California's Air Resources Board, which regulates air pollution in the state.

Collin O'Mara – The CEO of the National Wildlife Federation served as an energy and environment adviser to Biden. Prior to working at the federation, O'Mara was the youngest person to head up the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control in Biden's home state, from 2009 to 2014.

CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY

Michael Morell - He was the CIA's deputy director and acting director of the agency twice under Obama. Morell is now the chairman of the geopolitical risk practice at Beacon Global Strategies, a Washington consulting firm.

Tom Donilon - The veteran diplomat and former national security adviser under Obama helped steer a White House agenda that increased the U.S. focus on the relationship with Asia. Donilon, a longtime adviser to Biden, worked on Biden's first presidential campaign in 1988.

(Reporting by John Whitesides, Mark Hosenball, Howard Schneider, Sarah N. Lynch, Arshad Mohammed, Phillip Stewart, Valerie Volcovici, David Brunnstrom, Michelle Nichols, Trevor Hunnicutt, Timothy Gardner, Mike Stone, Jason Lange and Jarrett Renshaw; Editing by Leslie Adler and Jonathan Oatis)

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