Early Democratic primary rivals to Joe Biden could be chosen for potential cabinet positions under a Biden administration—an initiative is a priority for progressives if the former vice president is elected next week.
Both Senators Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) could upgrade their senate seats to cabinet secretaries in a Biden White House, as far-left Democrats have pushed for their candidacies, especially Warren’s.
According to Fox News, sources close to Sanders confirmed that he has an interest in acting as the Department of Labor secretary in a Biden cabinet, while progressive groups have shoved Warren centerstage in leading the Treasury Department.
Biden’s transition team has already begun the screening process for filling cabinet positions, but a spokesperson for the team told Politico last week that they will not release decisions or names before Election Day. The team did emphasize, however, that “diversity of ideology and background is a core value of the transition.”
Progressive donors, activists and leaders have publicly argued that Warren would be the strongest candidate for the Treasury secretary job, considering her persistence in targeting Wall Street and big banks.
“There’s a huge gap between Sen. Warren and any other likely candidate,” Larry Cohen, former president of the Communications Workers of America union and a close ally of Sanders, told NBC News. “She, first of all, understands finance capital and second of all is prepared to wrangle with it. Some of the other candidates I’ve heard about are not prepared to wrangle with it.”
Left-wing lawmakers and progressive groups including Democratic Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.) and Ayanna Pressley (Mass.) convened to sign a letter earlier this month, according to Politico, urging that no business executives or lobbyists should be granted Senate-confirmed positions in a potential Biden administration.
If Biden wins, progressive voices trying to influence who he picks for his cabinet will only get louder. Already, many on the far-left expressed their disagreement after the transition team reported that Biden is considering to appoint Republicans to his cabinet.
Stan Veuger, a resident scholar in economic policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute, said appointing Sanders or Warren to Biden’s cabinet “is a bad idea.”
“Warren is too obsessed with rich people and successful companies to be an effective Treasury secretary—especially as we try to recover from the Covid-19 crisis—while Sanders as Labor secretary would hinder labor market recovery by increasing labor costs and create all sorts of roadblocks to immigration because of his long-standing protectionist beliefs in that area,” Veuger added.
Another expert, David Karol, author and associate professor at the University of Maryland, noted that appointing either of the senators would mean Republican governors would have to temporarily fill their vacant upper chamber seats.
“Biden has to think twice before appointing any Democratic Senators from states with Republican governors and that’s a category that includes both Sanders and Warren,” Karol said. “The result would be an interim appointee picked by the governor, followed by a special election. These are headaches Biden doesn’t need.”
Karol added that “the Massachusetts legislature could change their law to force the governor to appoint a Democrat. A Democrat could be elected governor in Vermont. But those things haven’t happened, yet.”
Meanwhile, Biden has continued to label himself as a president who will unify the divided and broken Capitol Hill if elected on November 3—and that could mean appointing a bipartisan (but polarized) cabinet.
Granting Sanders or Warren a secretary position, according to Veuger, would only “hurt Biden’s administration by antagonizing elements of his winning coalition.”
Rachel Bucchino is a reporter at the National Interest. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, U.S. News & World Report and The Hill.