What Biden’s Cabinet picks say about how he plans to govern

WASHINGTON (AP) – Joe Biden promised his presidency would see a return to normal. His cabinet selection helps demonstrate how he intends to deliver.

The president-elect announced his final nominations last week, completing a diverse team of two dozen people. He noted on Friday that this will be the “first cabinet ever” to achieve gender equality and encompass a majority of people of color, which is remarkable given previous concerns that it relied largely on white men.

Some nominees have decades of experience in their respective agencies. Many had prominent roles in the Obama administration. Many have already started meeting with stakeholders and advocacy organizations, and his transition team has had what is known as an “open door” policy towards stakeholders for months.

It’s a sharp contrast to President Donald Trump’s cabinet, which has been largely dominated by white men with little experience in Washington. Biden’s aides say this was one of the goals he set for himself in filling out his cabinet: to signal that his presidency will mean a return to a competent, stable leadership government.

That’s especially important, say Democrats, as the pandemic and economic turmoil rage and the country navigates through the aftermath of last week’s violent uprising in the U.S. Capitol.

“Joe Biden comes into office in the most difficult circumstances in a century,” said Dan Pfeiffer, former senior adviser to the Obama White House. “There is no time for on-the-job training. He needs people on the right track because what happens in the first six months of his presidency will likely determine the course of every four years. “

Biden’s cabinet is unlikely to be in place when he takes over the presidency on January 20th. The Senate, which must approve the candidates, has not scheduled any hearings for many of the picks. The exception is Lloyd Austin, Biden’s candidate for Secretary of Defense, who is expected to appear before the Senate Armed Forces Committee on January 19.

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Some nominees faced early questions about their verification prospects, most notably Neera Tanden, Biden’s choice to head the bureau of administration and budget. Tanden angered the Republicans with her outspoken criticism of them on Twitter.

But the confirmation process for many of the candidates could be smoother after the Democrats took two Senate seats in Georgia last week and divided the chamber evenly. Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris will have the casting vote and give the Democrats the edge.

Biden spokesman Andrew Bates said the president-elect “is working in good faith with both parties in Congress for swift confirmation that so much is at stake in our nation that our national security is at stake and lives and jobs are at stake for everyone.” Day to be lost. ” afford to waste any time. “

However, many candidates may face an unprecedented level of scrutiny as they work to dig their departments out of both an erosion of public trust in government and an erosion of morality from within. Many departmental budgets and employees were gutted during the Trump administration.

This excavation is part of why it is so important for Biden to select seasoned veterans for his cabinet, according to Eric Schultz, a former senior adviser to the White House.

“One of the issues Biden faces that Obama didn’t face in 2009 is how the Trump administration deals with federal agencies and departments,” he said. “Rebuilding these agencies – operationally only – to get this going again is going to take a lot of work. So it wouldn’t make sense to bring in a few newbies. “

You will also need to meet the requirements of progressives to look for major leadership changes in agencies ranging from the Department of Homeland Security to the Environmental Protection Agency to the Department of Justice. Many of them will be on the front lines of tackling a pandemic that killed more than 371,000 people in the United States, while taking action on race, inequality and climate change that have changed national movements in recent years .

To forestall these issues, Biden’s transition team spent months meeting with trade, advocacy, and interest groups across Washington and beyond to re-establish relationships that were stunted during the Trump administration. After his team was named, his candidates began their own meetings with key groups to prepare for office.

Some meetings are designed to allay the concerns of critics, such as when Tom Vilsack, Biden’s election as Minister of Agriculture, met with Black Farm supporters. Vilsack had questions about what critics say was his failure to address discrimination against black farmers within the agency when he was Obama’s chief agriculture officer.

But others have included representatives from areas not normally considered democratic constituencies. Three of Biden’s top candidates for health counseling positions met with interfaith leaders on Thursday, and the next day, Alejandro Mayorkas, Biden’s choice for Homeland Security, met with 20 leaders who share his Jewish faith.

Rev. Gabriel Salguero, a Florida-based pastor who founded the National Latino Evangelical Coalition, said the Biden transition has made “very robust and very deliberate” efforts to build relationships with faith leaders. Salguero recalled other faith-specific calls with Susan Rice, selected as Biden’s domestic affairs adviser, and Tanden.

While recalling meetings with the Trump administration on key issues, Salguero said the reach of the Biden transition team had already gone wider.

Even those groups that may be more in line with Trump and the Republicans on their issues are already satisfied with Biden’s approach to government. Democratic lobbyist Steve Elmendorf said the reaction of his business customers and other lobbyists in Washington has been “very positive” because “we are sure to like the business.”

“The business likes a plan,” said Elmendorf. “And while some of the results under Donald Trump pleased people, they really didn’t like the tweeted government and Fox News.”

Even those who do not agree with all of Biden’s guidelines are relieved to be returning to normal working order because “they believe there will be a process that is known and transparent, and where stakeholders have a chance to express their views close. “

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Associate press writer Elana Schor contributed to this report.

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