Women on Biden’s VP list could get Cabinet jobs
All but one of the women Joe Biden might pick as his run mate will be disappointed, but a new guessing game has already begun: what other roles could they play in his administration?
Most women are Democratic Party stars with expertise in public policy, which makes them candidates for jobs in Biden’s administration should former Vice President President Trump dismiss. They are US Senators and members of the House of Representatives. These include former prosecutors, a former police chief and a foreign policy expert. Some are on the front line in responding to the coronavirus pandemic and protests against police brutality and racial discrimination.
“They all have unique strengths,” said Kelly Dittmar, research director at Rutgers University’s Center for American Women and Politics.
Biden’s promise to choose a woman to join him means that America will have its first female vice president if he wins. The review is a grueling ordeal with Biden’s advisors going through extensive dossiers on everything behind the women’s background. Will any of those who endured it be willing to take another job as a consolation later?
Senator Kamala Harris from California could be a top contender for the US attorney general in a Biden administration.
(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)
Kamala Harris: Top Cop or Supreme Court Justice?
The US Senator from California, the daughter of immigrants from Jamaica and India, was selected as a candidate for the Supreme Court to fulfill another promise made by Biden: that he would bring a black woman to the Supreme Court.
Harris would also be a lead candidate for the US Attorney General. Harris was a district attorney who served as California Attorney General and District Attorney for San Francisco prior to her election to the 2016 Senate. She often referred to herself as the state’s “top police officer”.
She quickly made a name for herself in Washington by grilling Trump candidates and officials from her seat on the Senate Judiciary Committee. Her targeted interrogation of Jeff Sessions as attorney general made him so nervous that he told her it made me “nervous” to respond quickly.
When Harris was a Biden rival in the presidential primary, her work as a prosecutor was an issue that cast doubt on some Democrats about their track record of racial differences in the judicial system. But many believe that they are clearly qualified to head the Justice Department.
“Harris could make a great attorney general,” said Neera Tanden, president of the Center for American Progress and former advisor to Hillary Clinton.
But would Harris, 55, want to leave the Senate? When she was reported as a possible successor to President Obama’s outgoing Attorney General in 2014, Harris declined to be considered.
Elizabeth Warren: economic populist in the Treasury?
The Massachusetts Senator, who ran against Biden in the primary with the promise of “major structural change”, is frequently mentioned as Treasury Secretary. Warren, a former professor at Harvard Law School and an expert in personal bankruptcy, was the architect of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which was set up after the 2008 economic crash.
Her populist economic agenda has alarmed many of the corporate leaders and Wall Street bankers who are used to having their own head of finance.
During her presidential campaign, 71-year-old Warren had vowed to shake up American capitalism in part by taxing large corporations and the wealthy to finance health care, education and housing for the poor and middle class. As Treasury Secretary, Warren would be one of the most powerful personalities in running the country’s economy and financial markets.
Tanden, who believes Warren might also be attorney general, suggested that those who might object should accept that some of the reforms advocated by the Senator are inevitable at a time of wealth concentration rivaling the Golden Age.
Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren could be a leading candidate for Treasury Secretary or attorney general if Democrat Joe Biden replaces President Trump.
(Matthew Putney / Associated Press)
“If we don’t really make concerted efforts to deal with the deep inequalities in this country, the business community will be far more disrupted than it is now,” said Tanden.
One complication: the Republican governor of Massachusetts would name Warren’s successor and likely deprive the Democrats of a crucial seat in what may still be a narrow Senate.
Susan Rice: Diplomat or Putin tormentor?
No one on Biden’s list of fellow travelers matches Rice’s foreign policy references. She was National Security Advisor in Obama’s second term and UN Ambassador in his first. She spoke as the leading candidate for foreign ministerial office.
Former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, a friend of Biden, said Rice, 55, could also be Secretary of Defense or Ambassador to Russia, where she could antagonize President Vladimir Putin after his years of friendship with President Trump.
“It would drive Putin crazy,” said Rendell. “Crazy. I would do that if I were Joe – just make Putin totally crazy.”
Tammy Duckworth: Decorated Vet Who Runs the VA?
The US Senator from Illinois rose to the top group of Biden’s competitors, primarily because of her convincing personal biography.
Duckworth, 52, grew up in Southeast Asia and Hawaii. She speaks Thai and Indonesian. When she was an army helicopter pilot during the Iraq war, she lost both legs in combat. She headed the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs before serving as Assistant Secretary for Veterans Affairs in Obama’s administration.
Unsurprisingly, many see the Purple Heart recipient as a great way to take on the longtime veterans affairs division.
“It would be an enormous role to have a disabled veterinarian to head the VA,” said Will Marshall, president of the Progressive Policy Institute.
Tammy Duckworth, Illinois Senator, is an Army veteran who might be eligible for the position of Veterans Affairs Secretary.
(J. Scott Applewhite / Associated Press)
After four years in the House of Representatives and four years in the Senate, Duckworth was well-positioned for other senior positions, including Secretary of Health and Human Services.
Val Demings: back to law enforcement?
Florida Rep. Demings, a former Orlando police chief who has been on duty for nearly three decades, could be recruited to a top position in law enforcement. Some landing spots for Demings: Maybe the FBI, if current Director Christopher A. Wray leaves before his term ends in 2027, or the Drug Enforcement Administration.
Or the sprawling Department of Homeland Security.
“Someone has to deal with this whole agency, which is a whole debacle. So a woman who was the chief of police might be a perfect fit,” Tanden said, referring to the department’s role in Trump’s attacks on immigration and his crackdown on protests against racial injustice.
Demings, 63, was first elected to the house in 2016.
Karen Bass: UN Ambassador?
A former California Congregation spokesperson, 66-year-old Bass has represented South LA and part of the Westside in Congress for nearly a decade. Her extensive work on topics such as African affairs, child welfare, health care and police accountability makes her a plausible appointment as UN Ambassador or Secretary for Education or Health and Human Services.
“She’s just very knowledgeable, very pragmatic, and very accomplished,” said Marshall, who served with Bass on the board of directors for the National Endowment for Democracy.
Los Angeles Rep. Karen Bass is a former spokeswoman for the California Congregation.
(Carolyn Kaster / Associated Press)
Gretchen Whitmer: Fighting DC Pandemic?
Michigan Governor Whitmer issued one of America’s toughest lockdown orders at the start of the pandemic when COVID-19 crippled Detroit. She was criticized by Trump for pressuring governors to reopen their economies, but Whitmer declined to get involved. Their popularity rose and the outbreak subsided.
Whitmer’s leadership experience makes her a natural candidate for cabinet positions in home affairs, including commerce, health and human services, Tanden said.
“She was incredibly knowledgeable about the virus,” she said.
However, Rendell sees 48-year-old Whitmer aiming for re-election in 2022 and later moving up to a national post if Biden doesn’t put her on the map.
Keisha Lance Bottoms: Homeland Security Chief?
Twin crises put the Atlanta Mayor in the national spotlight this year as she led her city through a coronavirus outbreak and major protests after police killed George Floyd in Minneapolis.
A lawyer and former judge, Bottoms, 50, accused Trump of violating their mandatory mask-wearing order on a recent visit to Atlanta.
Marshall said he could see bottoms in health and human services, work, transportation, or housing and urban development.
Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms has run her city amid a COVID-19 outbreak protesting racial prejudice in policing.
But he thinks Homeland Security is the best fit.
“You could make a really strong case for a mayor who understands law enforcement at the federal and local levels,” he said.
Stacey Abrams: Continuing Voting Fight?
After losing her race for governor of Georgia in 2018, Abrams became one of the country’s top voting attorneys.
Democrats claimed their Republican rival Brian Kemp used his post as secretary of state to keep black voter turnout down. Abrams, 46, a lawyer and former lawmaker, founded Fair Fight, an Atlanta constituency.
That work got her into the interview for the Attorney General, where she would be responsible for revitalizing the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department.
“She’s done an enormous amount of voting,” Tanden said. “I would consider that to be some sort of optimum” for the Attorney General.