President-elect Joe Biden will officially announce a round of Cabinet picks on Tuesday, according to two top transition officials, but it still remains unclear which ones will be named.
Ron Klain, Biden’s incoming White House chief of staff, told ABC News’ “This Week” that Biden’s team will be “beating” the pace set by those from former President Barack Obama and President Donald Trump’s transition teams, although he declined to provide specifics.
Senior Biden transition official Jennifer Psaki echoed Klain’s remarks in an interview with CNN’s “State of the Union,” emphasizing that the incoming Cabinet “will look like America” and bring “diversity of ideology, diversity of background, and he wants to have a range of views of people at the table.” Psaki followed up in a tweet, noting that Cabinet announcements will come Tuesday.
But Psaki also said that Trump’s resistance to accept the election results and lead a peaceful transition of power has neglected Biden’s team the necessary resources to prepare for the White House in January. FBI background checks are a major component of appointing and confirming Cabinet secretaries, a motion that cannot take place until the General Services Administration signs off on Biden’s win.
“Biden’s Cabinet appointments are tremendously important. They are crucial to his goal of creating greater unity on both the symbolic and the practical level,” Rogers M. Smith, professor of political science at the University of Pennsylvania, said via email.
Smith added that he anticipates it will be a “mixed cabinet, leaning toward centrists like Biden himself.”
A spate of intended Cabinet appointments and nominations were revealed Monday by the transition team, including Antony Blinken, a longtime confidant and veteran foreign policy official, as his secretary of state; Jake Sullivan as national security adviser; Linda Thomas-Greenfield as ambassador to the United Nations; and Alejandro Mayorkas as the secretary of homeland security. Janet Yellen, former Federal Reserve chairwoman, is expected to be named treasury secretary, according to aides close to the president-elect.
Biden’s transition team has received pushback from progressives in recent weeks, as the far-Left wing of the party has argued for representation like Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) to fight for more progressive ideals in a Biden administration.
“Symbolically, he must satisfy his progressive supporters that he is truly embracing diversity, appointing women, people of color, and some clear progressives,” Smith said. “But he must also show Republicans and at least some Trump supporters that he is truly reaching out to them, probably by appointing one or two Republicans to cabinet posts.”
Although Tuesday’s announcements still remain up-in-the-air, here are some predictions and contenders for five Cabinet secretary positions that are currently unnamed.
Secretary of Health and Human Services
Currently held by Alex Azar, the Department of Health and and Human Services under the Trump administration has consistently worked to repeal the Affordable Care Act, an Obama-era legislation that’s on the plank in the Supreme Court with the president’s most recent justice appointment bringing the nation’s highest court to have a 6-3 conservative leaning bench.
The department has initiated executive action to diminish funding and expand access to inexpensive health plans that can detour certain law’s guidelines for insurance benefits and protections. Biden, on the other hand, has publicly backed the ACA and said he would replace it in the event it got overturned, with Bidencare.
The president-elect has advocated for a public insurance option available for all Americans and wants more affordable health coverage overall—an issue that’s served on the basis of his platform since the start of his presidential campaign.
Potential candidates for the top spot in the department, according to The Washington Post’s Cabinet tracker, are New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D), former secretary of health of New Mexico and longtime healthcare policy expert, Mandy Cohen, current Secretary of North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services and Vivek Murthy, former U.S. surgeon general under Obama’s administration and a co-chair of Biden’s coronavirus advisory board.
The Justice Department has been under massive scrutiny over the last four years, as lawmakers and voters from both sides of the aisle have accused Trump of using Attorney General William Barr as a personal lawyer, as he’s assisted in lawsuits involving close friends and allies to the president.
But a Biden Justice Department would likely try to reform the current reputation intertwined in the department, as multiple sources said last week that Biden informed advisers that he’s circumspect in pursuing investigations of his predecessor since he thinks it would only deepen divides in an already polarized climate.
Attorney General contenders under Biden’s administration include Xavier Becerra, California’s attorney general who’s drawn popularity for his involvement in lawsuits against the Trump administration, Jeh Johnson, former homeland security secretary under Obama’s administration and former lawyer in the Pentagon, Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ala.) and former top Justice Department attorney Sally Yates, according to the Post’s tracker.
Secretary of Defense
Acting Defense Secretary, Christopher C. Miller, replaced Mark T. Esper nearly two weeks ago for the top Cabinet post, closing up a tenure with Trump’s fourth Pentagon chief in less than two years. The move pushed the Pentagon into national security mayhem during a period of domestic tension with the presidential transition and potential threats from countries like Russia and China.
Under Biden’s administration, the transition team has stressed to revamp international alliances and address China’s growing threat.
The president-elect’s top contender for the position—Michèle Flournoy—puts yet another heavy emphasis on filling Biden’s cabinet with women. Biden, along with other transition staff, have vowed to diversify his White House team, as the majority of the Biden-Harris transition staff are women.
Flournoy, a former department official under both Clinton and Obama’s administration, isn’t the only candidate in the running, as both Johnson and William McRaven, a retired Navy admiral, are being considered.
Secretary of Education
DeVos, a longtime promoter of alternatives to public schools and opponent of the teachers’ unions, proposed to cut education funding and to slim down the department’s push for civil rights laws. Biden’s wife, Jill Biden, is a community college professor who has made education reform a central part of his agenda to tackle in the White House in January.
The president-elect has vowed to reverse much of DeVos’s policies, as he wants to pump more money into the K-12 school system and higher education and bring back an emphasis on civil rights laws and protections.
Biden also wants to funnel money into the public schooling system to provide federal assistance to combat the needs during the pandemic, like providing medical resources such as hand sanitizer, face masks and proper social distancing materials. The president-elect is eyeing student loan forgiveness options for students, as he’s urged Congress to take action and pass a related form of legislation.
The Post has named four key contenders to fill the spot—and all of them are women. They include Lily García, former top official for the National Education Association, the nation’s largest teachers’ union that Jill Biden is a member of. Other contenders are Democratic Reps. Jahana Hayes (Conn.), member of the Committee on Education and Labor, and Donna Shalala (Fla.), a longtime higher education worker and outgoing congresswoman who just lost her reelection bid. Finally, Randi Weingarten, head of the American Federation of Teachers, the nation’s second largest teachers’ union, is also on Biden’s education secretary shortlist.
Secretary of Labor
Currently held by Eugene Scalia, Biden’s nomination for the secretary of labor position could be a progressive win for Democrats.
Sanders, a leader of the far-Left wing of the party, has been rumored to be on Biden’s shortlist for the Labor Department, as well as Sharon Block, a former labor official in Obama’s administration. Three other potential nominees include Rep. Andy Levin (D), a major union advocate; Julie Su, secretary of the California Labor and Workforce Development Agency; and Boston’s mayor Marty Walsh.
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.