On January 20th, our country’s 46th President Joe Biden has taken office without many of the key members of his Cabinet in place. This unfortunate inconvenience happened mainly due to the Senate members who took way longer than expected to schedule confirmation hearings for each member.
Now, the Chamber is led by a majority of Democrats (for the first time in six years!), which means that they can confirm all of Biden’s Cabinet nominations without support from the Republicans. Now Vice President Kamala Harris also has an important role since she holds the tie-breaking vote, as the Chamber includes 50 Democrats and 50 Republicans.
As I’m writing this post, only six of the 23 politicians nominated by Joe Biden have been confirmed, while the remaining ones are still waiting for the Senate approval.
Recent history shows that former presidents Trump and Obama had to wait up to 100 days post-inaugural until the last Cabinet nominee was confirmed, although the majority of them had been confirmed within the first 20 days. Meanwhile, presidents Bush and Clinton had almost all of their nominees confirmed within their very first week in office.
Considering the tumultuous transition of power, as well as the increasing number of conflicts of interests going on in the Republican party, we can expect anything from now on.
But who does Biden want on his Cabinet after all? Today, we’ll have a look at each nominee and find out essential information that recommend them. If some of these members will get elected, they will break the record of being the first person of color in their position.
Let’s begin by getting some essential information on the most important members of the Cabined who have already been confirmed:
Kamala Harris: Vice President
No confirmation required
This year, our nation has witnessed the swearing in of the first female, first person of color and first South Asian American vice president. With a career of more than 20 years in the justice department, Harris is no stranger to breaking records: over the past decades, she has also become the first woman to become California’s attorney general, as well as the first Californian woman of color to serve in the U.S. Senate.
But these are just the main highlights regarding Kamala Harris’ achievements. If you want to get to truly know her personal and professional life, check out our post on 20 essential fast facts about the new vice president right here.
Antony Blinken: Secretary of State
Blinken is very familiar with the White House, as he was the deputy secretary of state and principal deputy national security adviser during the Obama administration. A long-time friend of Biden’s, Blinken also served as his foreign policy advisor for his 2008 presidential campaign.
Janet Yellen: Secretary of The Treasury
After breaking history when she became the first woman to chair the Federal Reserve, Yellen breaks yet another record by becoming the first woman to serve as Treasury secretary. She has also spent a couple of years at the White House between 1997 and 1999 as the chair of the White House Council of Economic Advisers.
Gen. Lloyd Austin: Secretary of Defense
Just a quick look at these four Cabinet members can tell us how open Joe Biden is regarding racial and cultural differences. Since the federal law requires at least seven years of retirement from active duty before becoming the Secretary of Defense, Gen. Austin was approved for a congressional waiver so that he can be confirmed for the civilian post. He Had only retired from active duty four years ago, after serving as the Army general and the commander of the U.S. Central Command.
Pete Buttigieg: Secretary of Transportation
Another record-breaking confirmed nominee for the Cabinet is Pete Buttigieg: the first out LGBTQ Cabinet Secretary approved by the Senate. At 38 years old, he is also the youngest member Biden has nominated for his Cabinet. He has previously served as the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, and started becoming popular nationally during last year’s Democratic primary.
Alejandro Mayorkas: Secretary of Homeland Security
As the first immigrant and Latino to become the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, Mayorkas has also served as the deputy secretary of Homeland Security during Obama’s years of presidency. Not only is he extremely familiar to this position, but Mayorkas has even been involved in multiple important projects. One of the most notable ones is overseeing the development of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program under the Obama administration – an executive action that protected undocumented immigrants who had arrived into the U.S. as children.
Ron Klain: Chief of Staff
Klain is known as one of the most trusted advisers in Biden’s career right now; he was also Biden’s chief of staff while he was Obama’s vice president. This Cabinet member has been confirmed at a crucial time for our nation and he may be a key piece that helps Biden make the right decisions pandemic-wise. Klain has led the response to the 2014 Ebola crisis from 2014 and he’s also served as the chief of staff for former vice president Al Gore (during Clinton’s administration).
Avril Haines: National Intelligence Director
Avril Haines is the first woman approved as the director of national intelligence. During the Obama administration, she has worked as the president’s assistant and principal deputy national security adviser under the Obama administration. Previously to that, Hines also worked as the deputy director of the Central Intelligence Agency.
John Kerry: Special Presidential Envoy for Climate
No confirmation required
After nearly five years of Donald Trump and his administration denying any climate threats our planet is facing and even destroying important initiatives to solve climate issues, John Kerry is like a breath of fresh air. He has been long dedicated to tackling some of the biggest challenges in this domain and was a key negotiator for the Paris agreement (under Obama). Two years ago, in 2019, Kerry also became one of the most notable supporters of the World War Zero project – a bipartisan initiative created by world leaders and other celebrities alike to unite against the climate crisis.
Now that we’ve met the confirmed members of the Cabinet, I think there’s only one conclusion we can draw: this is the most racially and culturally diverse Cabinet in our country’s history. Is that a good thing? Most likely yes, especially after such a long time of racism being encouraged by the most important political figures who held the power (Donald Trump, anyone?).
This Cabinet as a whole speaks for itself, showcasing some of Biden’s deepest beliefs: that we are all equal and we deserve the right to take a shot at anything we want to achieve.
Now, let’s have a look at the remaining nominees for Biden’s cabinet who have yet to receive their confirmation.
Merrick Garland: Attorney General
Appointed by former president Bill Clinton more than two decades ago, in 1997, Garland is currently serving as a federal judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit. When Justice Antonin Scalia passed away in 2016, former president Barack Obama tried in vain to offer the vacant Supreme Court spot to Garland; however, the Republican party (which was then led by Mitch McConnell who was also the Senate Majority Leader) repeatedly refused to hold confirmation hearings, so the initiative ultimately failed. Previous to that, Garland has also served as principal associate deputy attorney general.
Deb Haaland: Secretary of the Interior
If the Senate will confirm Haaland’s position, she will become the first Native American Cabinet secretary. This would be her second political record after being elected as one of the two first Native American women in Congress, back in 2018. She has also been a heavy supporter of the Standing Rock Reservation in 2016 when state officials were planning to build a pipeline that would’ve destroyed a key source of water for the reservation.
Tom Vislack: Secretary of Agriculture
Vislack seems like one of the most qualified candidates for this position, as he has been the secretary of agriculture throughout the Obama presidency. Previously, he has served as the governor of Iowa and broke the patterns in 1998 when he was the first Democrat elected as governor of the state in over three decades.
Gina Raimondo: Secretary of Commerce
Serving since 2015 as the governor of Rhode Island, Raimondo is also the first woman to be in that position. Back in 2010, she was also elected to be the general treasurer of the same state. She is now the co-founder of Point Judith Capital, an early-stage venture capital company.
Marty Walsh: Secretary of Labor
Walsh is not only the mayor of Boston since 2015, but also a veteran union operative. He has been the leader of Boston’s Building and Construction Trades Council, a group representative for electrician and ironworker unions.
Xavier Becerra: Secretary of Health & Human Services
Becerra is yet another political record breaker on our list, as he can become the first Latino to lead the Department of Health and Human Services (if he gets the Senate confirmation). Right now, Becerra is California’s attorney general and a chief defender of the Affordable Care Act in court. He has also served 12 terms as a Congress member of the U.S. House of Representatives.
Marcia Fudge: Secretary of Housing & Urban Development
Since 2008, Fudge has been the representative of Ohio’s 11th Congressional District, after chairing the Congressional Black Caucus. She also broke political boundaries in the past when she became the first African American and first woman to be elected as mayor of Warrensville Heights, Ohio.
Jennifer Granholm: Secretary of Energy
Not only did Granholm serve two terms as Michigan’s governor, but she was also the first woman to be elected for that position. During the terms, Granholm was closely involved with the auto industry – which is the dominant one in the Great Lakes State. It’s believed that her knowledge and connections can help Biden with his ambitious goal of encouraging our population to move towards electric vehicles.
Miguel Cardona: Secretary of Education
Right now, Cardona is serving as the commissioner of education in Connecticut. He has been getting considerably more attention lately as he started encouraging students to return to school claiming that children are falling behind due to virtual learning. This makes experts believe that he will be a high-profile Latino in Biden’s Cabinet if he gets the Senate confirmation.
Denis McDonough: Secretary of Veterans Affairs
Aside from serving as deputy national security adviser, McDonough has also been the chief of staff during Barack Obama’s second term as president. He has led the National Security Council’s Deputies Committee and has also served as the deputy national security adviser for strategic communications in the past.
Michael Regan: Environmental Protection Agency Administrator
Having served as the secretary of North Carolina’s Department of Environmental Quality, Regan can become the first African American man to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, should he be confirmed by the Senate. During both the Bush and Clinton administrations, Regan had been a leader of the Environmental Defense Fund’s initiatives to combat air pollution and the climate crisis.
Neera Tanden: Office of Management & Budget Director
If she will receive confirmation from the Senate, Tanden will break the record of becoming the first South Asian American and the first woman of color to be elected as the director of the Office of Management and Budget. She has been serving during the Clinton and Obama administrations, as well as being the CEO of the Center for American Progress.
Katherine Tai: U.S. Trade Representative
Much like Tanden, Katherine Tai can become the first woman of color to serve as the U.S. trade representative. Aside from the experience which recommends Tai for the position, her nomination might also signal Biden’s intention to change trade rules on China (as he had promised during his presidential campaign). Tai had been overseeing trade enforcement for China during Obama’s years of presidency and now is the top Democratic trade counsel for the Means Committee.
Izabel Guzman: Small Business Administrator
At the moment, Guzman serves as the director of California’s Office of the Small Business Advocate. Previous to this position, she has worked as the senior adviser of the Small Business Administration – an office she could now lead if she receives the Senate confirmation. Besides her experience in the Administration, Guzman has begun her career as a small entrepreneur herself, which is thought to help her get a clear view on small businesses and how their situation can be improved especially in times like these.
Linda Thomas-Greenfield: UN Ambassador
If she receives the Senate confirmation, Thomas-Greenfield would work again in the public service soon after retiring from a three-decade-long career in the US Foreign Service. During the Obama administration, Greenfield has also served as assistant secretary for the Bureau of African Affairs, as well as the director general of the Foreign Service.
Cecilia Rouse: Council of Economic Advisers
Rouse’s nomination gives her the opportunity of becoming the first woman of color to serve for the Council of Economic Advisers, should she get the Senate confirmation. Her impressive career history includes serving for the Council of Economic Advisers during the Obama administration, as well as working as a special assistant at the National Economic Council during Clinton.
Eric Lander: Presidential Science Advisor
Eric Lander is nominated for the position of presidential science adviser and director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy; this is the first time a president has elevated this position to Cabinet-level. Previously, Lander has also worked as the external co-chair of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology during Obama. Notably, he was an important part of the Human Genome Project.
As we can see, many of the Cabinet nominees share a common history with Biden as they’ve served during the Obama administration. Is returning to similar patterns to Obama’s a good thing in such unprecedented times? Only time can tell; for now, all eyes are on the nominees awaiting for their confirmation from the Senate to (hopefully) rise up to our expectations.