Who Are Joe Biden’s Cabinet Picks? The Full Updated List
Photo: Andrew Harnik/AP/Shutterstock
As President Trump spent weeks refusing to accept his election loss – culminating in the catastrophic attack on the Capitol – the Biden transition team forged ahead, announcing its picks for many Cabinet spots and other major positions. With a slim Senate majority secured following the runoffs in Georgia, Biden should be able to fill the Cabinet as he sees fit. Below is a running list of who will be joining the executive branch come January, assuming the nominees clear the Senate confirmation process.
Biden’s first order of business was to name a chief of staff to keep the vetting and transition processes from getting bogged down in the face of Trump’s recalcitrance. The chief of staff for Joe Biden when he was vice-president, Ron Klain was also the Obama administration’s Ebola-response coordinator during the outbreak in 2014 and 2015 — vital experience to have in a pandemic that has killed more than 250,000 Americans.
William Burns, president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and a career diplomat for over three decades, is Biden’s pick to lead the CIA, the transition confirmed on January 11. If confirmed, Burns will be the first career diplomat to lead the CIA. According to the Washington Post’s David Ignatius, Burns is “widely viewed as the best Foreign Service officer of his generation,” and his selection “will disappoint those who wanted a career intelligence officer to succeed Gina Haspel, the current director.”
On November 23, The Wall Street Journal reported that former Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen was Biden’s pick for Treasury secretary. As the Journal noted, Yellen will not only be the first woman to lead the Department of the Treasury but the “first person to have headed the Treasury, the central bank and the White House Council of Economic Advisers,” the three most powerful economic positions in the nation. In recent months, Yellen has expressed a willingness to use fiscal measures to stimulate economic recovery in a nation with a poverty rate above 11 percent. “This is not a good time to have fiscal policy switch from being accommodative to creating a drag,” Yellen said in October. “That’s what happened [last decade], and it retarded the recovery.”
On November 30, when Biden officially announced Yellen’s nomination, he also said he 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 based in Chicago — as deputy Treasury secretary,
Merrick Garland, whose nomination to the Supreme Court was blocked by Mitch McConnell in 2015, will finally get his day before the Senate. On January 6, Politico reported that the U.S. Circuit Judge will be nominated to lead the Justice Department.
On December 8, Biden published an op-ed in The Atlantic announcing that his Defense Secretary would be Lloyd Austin, a four-star general who retired from the Army in 2016. In addition to Senate confirmation, Austin, who has served on the board of Raytheon, will need a congressional waiver in order to nullify the seven-year waiting period between active-duty and government service.
Biden selected his longtime aide Antony Blinken for secretary of State, unveiling his pick on November 23 along with other members of his national security team. Biden’s national security adviser when he was vice-president and President Obama’s deputy secretary of State from 2015 to 2017, Blinken’s nomination suggests a return to the multilateralism of the Obama administration.
On December 17, Biden picked North Carolina’s environmental chief since 2017, Michael S. Regan, as his choice to lead the EPA, one of the cabinet departments impacted most by the Trump administration.
On November 23, Biden announced that he would appoint John Kerry as special presidential envoy for climate, a new Cabinet-level role in which the former secretary of State will “persuade skeptical global leaders, burned by the Trump administration’s hostility toward climate science, that the United States is prepared to resume its leadership role,” according to the New York Times.
The Washington Post reported on December 15 that former Environmental Protection Agency chief and National Resources Defense Council president Gina McCarthy will serve as Biden’s climate czar, coordinating environmental policy throughout the administration.
On December 17, Biden announced that New Mexico Representative Deb Haaland would be his pick for Interior Secretary, becoming the first Native American to lead the department that determines policy for federally-owned natural resources, as well as tribal lands.
On January 7, Politico first reported that Boston Mayor Marty Walsh would be Biden’s pick to lead the Department of Labor. Walsh had previously served as the head of the Boston Trades Council, an umbrella group of construction unions, and his nomination was supported by the two largest affiliates of the AFL-CIO.
On January 7, the New York Times reported that Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo would be nominated to lead the Department of Commerce, the wide-sweeping government agency that oversees technology regulation, the census, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Biden announced on November 23 that Alejandro Mayorkas, the deputy secretary of the Department of Homeland Security under Obama, would serve as the department’s head, becoming the first Latino and the first immigrant to do so. As the director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services under Obama — a role he held prior to becoming DHS deputy secretary — Mayorkas, who was born in Havana, led the implementation of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, a policy that Biden has declared his intention to restore.
Denis McDonough, Obama’s White House chief of staff, was tapped to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs on December 10. It’s “a sprawling agency that has presented organizational challenges for both parties over the years,” as the AP put it. “But he never served in the armed forces, a fact noted by a leading veterans organization.”
Biden introduced Pete Buttigieg as his pick for Transportation secretary on December 16. If confirmed, Buttigieg will be the first openly LGBTQ person to serve in the Cabinet. Buttigieg first came to national prominence when he came out as gay in 2015 while serving as the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, before going on to run for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020.
Politico reported on December 15 that Biden will name former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm as the leader of the expansive Department of Energy. Her experience in Lansing from 2003 to 2011 is an asset as Biden works to speed-up the transition to electric cars, among other green energy priorities.
Biden named Foreign Service veteran Linda Thomas-Greenfield to the U.N. ambassador position on November 23 and said he will reestablish the role in the Cabinet after his isolationist predecessor demoted it.
Biden named Haines — the deputy director of the Central Intelligence Agency from 2013 to 2015 — his director of national intelligence on November 23. If confirmed, she will oversee the 17 agencies that make up the nation’s intelligence community, becoming the first woman to fill the role.
Jake Sullivan, who was Biden’s national security adviser when he was vice president, will serve as national security adviser in the new administration.
Biden nominated that Neera Tanden – the frequent Twitter user and president of the Center for American Progress think tank, a center-left think tank – to be his OMB director. The Princeton University labor economist Cecilia Rouse will serve as the chair of the Council of Economic Advisers.
Biden announced that veteran 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. “These qualified, experienced communicators bring diverse perspectives to their work and a shared commitment to building this country back better,” Biden said on November 29.
Biden tapped BlackRock executive Brian Deese for his top White House economic adviser. Before his time in the financial sector, Deese served in the Obama White House, working on policy for the auto bailout.
Katherine Tai, the top U.S. Trade Representative lawyer on China during the Obama administration, was announced as Biden’s pick for U.S. trade representative on December 10.
On December 3, Politico reported that the former U.S. surgeon general for President Obama would reprise his role in the Biden administration under what are now dire circumstances. Murthy, the co-chair of Biden’s COVID advisory board, is expected to play a much more public role than previous surgeons general, acting as the “top medical expert and public face of the [pandemic] effort.” The transition formally announced Murthy’s nomination on December 7.
On December 7, Biden named California Attorney General Xavier Becerra as his Health and Human Services secretary. If confirmed, 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.
Biden announced on January 19 that he will nominate Pennsylvania Health Secretary Rachel Levin to be his assistant secretary of health. Levine would become the first openly transgender federal official to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate. Levine was appointed to her current position, which involves leading Pennsylvania’s coronavirus response, in 2017.
Susan Rice will lead the White House’s Domestic Policy Council, overseeing how the administration handles issues such as immigration, health care, and racial inequality. It’s a shift for Rice, who has spent her career in foreign policy, previously serving as Obama’s national security advisor and ambassador to the United Nations.
Tom Vilsack has been tapped to lead the Department of Agriculture again after he did so during the Obama administration, according to Axios. Vilsack, a former Iowa governor, was a prominent supporter of the president-elect in the presidential caucuses.
Representative Marcia Fudge of Ohio was selected to lead the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Fudge had lobbied Biden to become the nation’s first Black secretary of agriculture, but the job went to Tom Vilsack.
On December 22, the transition announced that Miguel Cardona, the top education official in Connecticut — and a staunch advocate for in-school learning during the pandemic — will lead the Education Department and Biden’s push to return kids to school within his first 100 days.
On December 7, the transition announced that Rochelle Walensky, the chief of infectious diseases at Massachusetts General Hospital, would run the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and will take a pivotal role in helping to stop the spread of the pandemic.
Jeff Zients, who previously led the HealthCare.gov tech surge in 2013 and oversaw the “Cash for Clunkers” fuel-efficiency program, will head the federal government’s COVID response, “including managing safe and equitable vaccine distribution, the pandemic supply chain, and coordination across federal agencies and state and local governments,” per the transition’s press release. Natalie Quillian, a former White House and Pentagon senior adviser who helped coordinate the Obama administration’s response to the opioid epidemic, will serve as deputy coordinator.
David Kessler, a pediatrician and lawyer who led the Food and Drug Administration under Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, has been named chief science officer for COVID-19 response. Kessler is co-chair of the transition team’s COVID task force, and will now help lead Operation Warp Speed, the program started under the Trump administration to accelerate development and distribution of COVID vaccines and treatments.
The best known and most (maybe only?) trusted member of the federal government’s current pandemic-response team will be staying on to advise Biden. The transition announced on December 7 that Fauci will continue in his role as director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, a position he has held since 1984, in addition to serving as “chief medical adviser on COVID-19 to the president” in the Biden administration.
The transition announced on Tuesday that Bruce Reed, a longtime Biden adviser who served as the vice president’s chief of staff from 2011 to 2013, is heading back to the White House as his deputy chief of staff.
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