President-elect Joe Biden finalized this week a diverse and historic list of Cabinet nominations and appointments, an attempt to fulfill campaign promises that his closest advisers would represent the tapestry of the American people.
“I’m going to keep my commitment that the administration, both in the White House and outside in the Cabinet, is going to look like the country,” Biden said in a CNN interview in early December.
The 24-person Cabinet includes 13 men and 11 women, and, according to Biden, “more than a dozen history-making appointments, including the first woman secretary of treasury, the first African American defense secretary, the first openly gay Cabinet member and the first Native American Cabinet secretary.”
A president’s Cabinet consists of the vice president, department secretaries, agency administrators and special appointments on policy. Many of these positions, like secretaries, need to be confirmed by a Senate majority, while appointees like the White House chief of staff or climate envoy, do not.
The Democratic majority in the Senate could speed up the confirmation of Biden’s nominees, but a possible impeachment trial of outgoing President Donald Trump could delay Senate approval, according to Politico.
Besides Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, here are the nominees and some top appointments of the incoming Biden administration:
Each of the 15 Cabinet secretaries will need to be confirmed by a majority in the Senate.
Secretary of state: Anthony Blinken
Anthony Blinken would be the nation’s top foreign diplomat. Blinken — who held tenures as deputy secretary of state and deputy national security adviser during the Obama presidency — would bring decades of foreign policy experience to the Cabinet.
“Not a single one of the really big problems that we face — whether it is climate change, whether it is the spread of dangerous weapons, whether it is a pandemic disease that we’re living through now — not a single one can be met fully by any one country alone,” Blinken said in a video introducing himself as secretary of state nominee.
“We need to enlist partners, we need to enlist allies, we need to enlist cooperation,” he added. “That’s the job of our diplomats.”
Blinken first joined in the State Department in 1993, during the Clinton administration, as a special assistant to the assistant secretary of state for European and Canadian Affairs.
Among my parents and grandparents are immigrants, refugees, a Holocaust survivor. For them and many others, America was the last best hope on earth. Their stories inspired me to serve.— Antony Blinken (@ABlinken) December 14, 2020
America at its best is why I’m here—that’s what I hope to help restore for future generations. pic.twitter.com/fowgaesMQC
Secretary of the treasury: Janet Yellen
Janet Yellen, the former chairwoman of the Federal Reserve, would be first female treasury secretary in the history of the nation.
Yellen, who holds a doctorate in economics from Yale University and also served as the chairwoman of the White House Council of Economic Advisors during the Clinton administration, said treasury’s goal for the economy is to “build back better” from coronavirus setbacks and to “pursue an investment agenda.”
“Investment in infrastructure, investment in people, investment that will create jobs and address the tremendous challenge of climate,” the nominee has said.
Our mission is to restore economic prosperity and financial stability.— Secretary Janet Yellen (@SecYellen) December 7, 2020
We’ll do that by pursuing an investment agenda to rebuild our infrastructure, create better jobs, advance racial equity, and fight the climate crisis. pic.twitter.com/IDUKBlcFDs
Secretary of defense: Gen. Lloyd Austin III
Retired Army Gen. Lloyd Austin III is a veteran with more than 40 years of military service. The former U.S. Central Command commander would be the first Black man to lead the Pentagon.
But Austin, who retired from the U.S. Army in 2016, will need a congressional waiver to serve as the defense secretary because federal law requires commissioned military officers to have been out of uniform for at least seven years before serving as the civilian leader of the Department of Defense.
“He is a true and tested soldier and leader. I’ve spent countless hours with him, in the field and in the White House Situation Room,” Biden, a former vice president, said of Austin in an essay published by The Atlantic after the general’s nomination was announced. “I’ve sought his advice, seen his command, and admired his calm and his character. He is the definition of a patriot.”
Secretary of the interior: Rep. Deb Haaland
Rep. Deb Haaland, D-N.M., would be the first Native American to become a Cabinet secretary.
“Growing up in my mother’s Pueblo household made me fierce. I’ll be fierce for all of us, our planet, and all of our protected land,” Haaland said on Twitter after being nominated. “I am honored and ready to serve.”
A voice like mine has never been a Cabinet secretary or at the head of the Department of Interior.— Deb Haaland (@DebHaalandNM) December 18, 2020
Growing up in my mother’s Pueblo household made me fierce. I’ll be fierce for all of us, our planet, and all of our protected land.
I am honored and ready to serve.
Secretary of agriculture: Tom Vilsack
Tom Vilsack would bring eight years of on-the-job experience to the Department of Agriculture, having already served for the duration of President Barack Obama’s administration as agriculture secretary. Before serving on Obama’s Cabinet, Vilsack, 70, served two terms as governor of Iowa.
“With an estimated 1 in 6 Americans and a quarter of U.S. children facing a hunger crisis, farmers reeling, and rural communities struggling to weather the pain and economic fallout of the pandemic, Vilsack will bring the experience and bold thinking needed to deliver immediate relief to farmers, ranchers, producers and families all across the country,” according to a statement from the incoming Biden administration.
Vilsack’s nomination has drawn criticism advocates who want the department to better assist low-income Americans, according to NPR. They say the nominee, a leader of the U.S. Dairy Export Council, “would strengthen a status quo they say favors large corporate farm interests.”
Secretary of commerce: Gina Raimondo
Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo is a former venture capitalist and state treasurer. She would oversee an agency responsible for trade policy and U.S. economic growth domestically and abroad, according to the AP.
“Rhode Island may be small, but our economy is mighty on the strength of our small businesses and innovative technologies,” said Raimondo on Twitter. “As Secretary of Commerce, I will harness that same American ingenuity to create good-paying union jobs and build our economy back better than ever before.”
Rhode Island may be small, but our economy is mighty on the strength of our small businesses and innovative technologies. As Secretary of Commerce, I will harness that same American ingenuity to create good-paying union jobs and build our economy back better than ever before.— Gina Raimondo (@GinaRaimondo) January 8, 2021
Secretary of labor: Marty Walsh
Boston Mayor Marty Walsh is no stranger to labor issues. Born to Irish immigrants, he was a Boston labor union leader, state representative and has personal ties to Biden — they have been seen together at Boston rallies and dinners, Politico reported.
“Working people, labor unions, and those fighting every day for their shot at the middle class are the backbone of our economy and of this country,” said Walsh on Twitter. “As Secretary of Labor, I’ll work just as hard for you as you do for your families and livelihoods. You have my word.”
Working people, labor unions, and those fighting every day for their shot at the middle class are the backbone of our economy and of this country. As Secretary of Labor, I’ll work just as hard for you as you do for your families and livelihoods. You have my word.— Marty Walsh (@MartyJWalsh) January 8, 2021
Secretary of health and human services: Xavier Becerra
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra would be the first Latino to head the Department of Health and Human Services, which carries out policies that serve the poor and disadvantaged.
Becerra says his Catholic faith is his “North Star” to guide his morals and ethics.
“That’s what informs me as I do my work. I’ve got to make sure, from the very beginning to the very end, we’re doing everything we can to make sure you can have the best life possible,” the a former 12-term U.S. congressman said in a video posted to his Twitter account.
If confirmed, Becerra would lead the department spearheading the nation’s ongoing response to the coronavirus pandemic.
The nominee has received criticism from Republicans for his support of abortion rights and universal health care, NBC News reported, but with Democrats now controlling the Senate, Becerra’s confirmation is more likely.
Secretary of housing and urban development: Rep. Marcia Fudge of Ohio
Ohio Congresswoman Marcia Fudge is the former mayor of Warrensville Heights and past chairworman of the Congressional Black Caucus.
The Biden administration said the congresswoman “is a longtime champion of affordable housing, urban revitalization, infrastructure investment, and other reforms to enhance the safety, prosperity, and sustainability of American communities.”
“All people really want is an opportunity to succeed,” said Fudge of the importance of housing, “and you can’t do it if there is no stability in your life.”
Fudge would be first Black woman in decades to lead HUD, and the second in history.
To build back better, we first need to create a base – to build a foundation for those struggling with housing.— Marcia L. Fudge (@mlfudge) December 22, 2020
That means ensuring people keep their homes during a pandemic, and keeping people off the streets. Then we can start enacting programs that make life better. pic.twitter.com/LFWVmP15KF
Secretary of transportation: Pete Buttigieg
Pete Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, and serious contender for the Democrats’ 2020 presidential nominee, is the youngest Cabinet nominee. Buttigieg will turn 39-years-old the day before the inauguration.
“Mayor Pete Buttigieg is a patriot and a problem-solver who speaks to the best of who we are as a nation, Biden said in a statement. “Jobs, infrastructure, equity, and climate all come together at the DOT. ... I trust Mayor Pete to lead this work with focus, decency, and a bold vision — he will bring people together to get big things done.”
This is a moment of tremendous opportunity—to create jobs, meet the climate challenge, and enhance equity for all.— Pete Buttigieg (@PeteButtigieg) December 16, 2020
I'm honored that the President-elect has asked me to serve our nation as Secretary of Transportation.
Secretary of Energy: Jennifer Granholm
Jennifer Granholm, a former two-term Michigan governor and once elected attorney general, was the first woman to hold both of those roles in Michigan.
Granholm, a Harvard Law alum and immigrant from Canada, has been a professor and researcher at multiple academic institutions and was the founder and former chairwoman of the American Jobs Project — a “nonprofit, nonpartisan, think-and-do tank” that develops “practical, customized strategies to promote economic development and advanced energy jobs.”
But the Department of Energy does more than oversee the nation’s energy supply. It’s primary responsibilities include maintaining America’s nuclear weapons capabilities and environment cleanup of Cold War era nuclear sites.
Secretary of education: Miguel Cardona
Miguel Cardona was the first Latino to become education commissioner in Connecticut and is also an adjunct professor at the University of Connecticut Department of Education — where he earned his doctorate in education.
“It’s definitely time for a public school educator, who has experience in the classroom, to walk us through this crisis and beyond,” Cardona, a former public schoolteacher, principal and administrator said in video produced by the Biden-Harris transition team. “We have a lot more to accomplish in education.”
Texas Democratic Rep. Joaquín Castro, the chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, told NBC News that Cardona “is a visionary, humble and experienced educator who will lead the Department of Education out of the DeVosian wilderness and toward excellence.”
Secretary of Education nominee Dr. Miguel Cardona is a public school educator who understands the value and importance of public education.— The White House (@WhiteHouse) December 30, 2020
He will use his expertise to get our nation's schools through this pandemic and beyond. pic.twitter.com/khfgCmid6G
Secretary of veterans affairs: Denis McDonough
Nominated to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs is former White House chief of staff Denis McDonough.
The Biden team said McDonough “helped lead the Obama-Biden administration’s work on behalf of military families and veterans” and that he “knows the ins and outs of government, and if confirmed, he will pull every lever to deliver results for veterans and their families.”
McDonough has also served as deputy national security adviser and chief of staff to the national security staff.
Secretary of homeland security: Alejandro Mayorkas
Alejandro Mayorkas would become the first Latino and immigrant to run the Department of Homeland Security.
Mayorkas — a Cuban-born American whose parents fled Fidel Castro’s reign — is a former DHS deputy secretary and former director of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service under the Obama administration.
“How we tackle threats defines who we are as a nation, who we are as a people and the values that we hold dear,” said Mayorkas in a video from the Biden transition team. “We intend to lead by demonstrating a commitment to those values, unwaveringly so.”
Our national security team will be relentless in keeping our country safe, with a vision on how to tackle the most pressing challenges of our time.— The White House (@WhiteHouse) December 9, 2020
We will bring together allies and partners around the world to face these threats head on.
America is back. pic.twitter.com/1Vz5Xwe37r
Attorney general: Judge Merrick Garland
Federal appeals court Judge Merrick Garland made headlines in 2016, when his Supreme Court nomination by the Obama administration was blocked by Senate Republicans.
In announcing the current nomination, Biden said Garland is “one of the most respected jurists of our time. Brilliant yet humble. Distinguished yet modest. Full of character and decency.”
“I have loved being a judge,” Garland said in a televised statement after the announcement. “But to serve as attorney general at this critical time — to lead the more than 113,000 dedicated men and women who work at the (Justice) Department to ensure the rule of law — is a calling I am honored and eager to answer.”
Other top administration posts and appointees
Each of the following advisers will also need Senate confirmation, with the exception of chief of staff, national security adviser and climate envoy.
Chief of staff: Ron Klain
President-elect Joe Biden announced in November that Ron Klain, his former vice presidential chief of staff and Obama-era Ebola outbreak response chief, will serve as the incoming White House chief of staff. Klain will be the president-elect’s closest formal adviser and wrangler of executive priorities once the Biden administration takes office Jan. 20.
He was born into a Jewish household in Indianapolis, Klain is married to Monica Medina — a U.S. Army veteran who has served in senior government and academic positions. The couple has three adult children.
Environmental Protection Agency administrator: Michael Regan
Michael Regan is secretary of the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality.
Earlier in his career, Regan served in the EPA in both the Clinton and Bush administrations and later led efforts to minimize the effects of air pollution and climate change at the Environmental Defense Fund — an environmental advocacy organization.
“We will be driven by our convictions that every person in our great country has the right to clean air, clean water and a healthier life no matter how much money they have in their pockets, the color of their skin or the community that they live in,” the nominee has said.
Regan, if confirmed, would be the first African American man to lead the agency, NPR reported.
We will be driven by our conviction that every person has the right to clean air, clean water, and a healthier life—no matter how much money they have in their pocket, the color of their skin, or what community they live in.— Michael S. Regan (@Michael_S_Regan) December 21, 2020
And that’s what we’ll pursue together 👍🏾🌎 pic.twitter.com/3wben7hbLj
Office of Management and Budget director: Neera Tanden
Neera Tanden, the president and CEO of the liberal-leaning think thank the Center for American Progress would be the first Indian-American to lead the Office of Managment and Budget, if confirmed. She is a Yale Law School alum and served in both the Clinton and Obama administrations.
The office allows the White House to manage the creation and application of the federal budget.
“I’m here today because of social programs, because of budgetary choices, because of a government that saw my mother’s dignity, and gave her a chance. Now, it’s my honor to help shape those budgets and programs to keep lifting Americans up.” Tanden said of her nomination.
After my parents were divorced when I was young, my mother relied on public food and housing programs to get by. Now, I’m being nominated to help ensure those programs are secure, and ensure families like mine can live with dignity. I am beyond honored.— Neera Tanden🌻 (@neeratanden) November 30, 2020
United States Trade representative: Katherine Tai
Katherine Tai is current chief counsel for the House Ways and Means Committee.
“Her deep experience will allow the Biden-Harris administration to hit the ground running on trade, and harness the power of our trading relationships to help the U.S. dig out of the COVID-induced economic crisis and pursue the president-elect’s vision of a pro-American worker trade strategy,” the Biden administration said in a statement.
If confirmed, Tai would be the first Asian American and first woman of color to serve as U.S. Trade representative.
Administrator of the Small Business Administration: Isabel Guzman
Isabel Guzman is California’s director for the Small Business Advocate and former Obama-era economics official, The Wall Street Journal reported.
The post, which requires Senate confirmation, ”provides counseling, capital, and contracting expertise as the nation’s only go-to resource and voice for small businesses,” according its website.
“We have to build our economy back better from this pandemic. Small businesses and their employees will be core to our recovery and I will work around the clock to help them re-open and thrive,” Gumzman said on Twitter after the announcement.
We have to build our economy back better from this pandemic. Small businesses and their employees will be core to our recovery and I will work around the clock to help them re-open and thrive.— Isabel C Guzman (@IsabelCGuzman) January 8, 2021
National Intelligence director: Avril Haines
Avril Haines, the first female deputy director of the CIA and a deputy national security adviser under Obama administration, would be the first woman to serve as national intelligence director, if confirmed, NBC News reported.
“Mr. President-elect, you know I’ve never shied away from speaking truth to power,” Haines said in a statement after Biden’s nomination, NPR reported. “I accept this nomination knowing that you would never want me to do otherwise ... even when what I have to say may be inconvenient or difficult, and I assure you, there will be those times.”
Ambassador to the United Nations: Linda Thomas-Greenfield
Linda Thomas-Greenfield is retired from the State Department’s foreign service after a 35-year career, which included assignments as assistant secretary for the Bureau of African Affairs, an ambassadorship to Liberia and postings in Africa, southwest Asia and Jamaica.
“You cannot bring about global change alone. You need your allies. You need partners. You need your friends,” the nominee said in a Biden-Harris Transition team video.
My mother taught me to lead with the power of kindness and compassion to make the world a better place. I’ve carried that lesson with me throughout my career in Foreign Service – and, if confirmed, will do the same as Ambassador to the United Nations.— Linda Thomas-Greenfield (@LindaT_G) November 23, 2020
Chairwoman of the Council of Economic Advisors: Cecilia Rouse
The former White House economics adviser and dean of Princeton University’s School of Public and International Affairs, Cecilia Rouse has been nominated to lead Biden’s Council of Economic Advisors — a position Biden plans to make Cabinet-level, The New York Times reported. If confirmed, she would be the council’s first Black leader.
In an interview with NPR’s Audie Cornish, the nominee said of the current pandemic induced economic crisis and of the incoming administration’s response:
“Right now what we recognize is that Americans are suffering. Households, businesses are suffering. And so what we understand this time is that we need to be providing relief to households, businesses, state and local governments to help them get to the other side of the pandemic. That’s not the end of the road. It’s important that as we do get to the other side that we build an economy that includes all Americans and therefore is strong because it’s addressing the inequality that’s been laid bare by the pandemic.”
I am focused on the task ahead. This job is about advising the President on how to rebuild and revive our economy. The planning for a fairer economy, grounded in facts and evidence, begins now.— Cecilia Rouse (@CeciliaERouse) November 30, 2020
I’m proud to be nominated as Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers.
Special presidential envoy for climate: John Kerry
Former Secretary of State John Kerry has been appointed as the Biden administration’s special presidential envoy for climate, a new, Cabinet-level position, the Times reported. Kerry, who ran for president in 2004, is a Vietnam war veteran and former senator from Massachusetts.
In an interview with NPR, Kerry said, “We have to raise the ambition of every nation in the world in order to get this job done, and our task — my task specifically — will be to help negotiate that.” That elevated ambition will include bringing America back on board with the Paris climate agreement — which Kerry signed on behalf of the United States in 2015 and President Donald Trump later withdrew from — and preparing for the United Nations climate summit in November.