While Donald Trump continues to deny that he lost, Joe Biden is getting on with the task of putting together his teams. But Steve Peoples warns for the Associated Press that Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are at risk of being excluded from the senior ranks of president-elect’s administration as the incoming president balances the demands of his party’s progressive base against the political realities of a narrowly divided Senate.
He writes that the senators remain interested in serving in Biden’s Cabinet, but even some of their allies recognize they face major political hurdles getting there. Sensing disappointment, progressive leaders have reluctantly begun to express support for less-controversial alternatives.
Warren, whose political career has been defined by efforts to diminish the power of big banks, is the progressive movement’s top choice for Treasury secretary. Sanders reiterated his desire to serve as Biden’s Labor secretary on Thursday, describing himself as particularly well-suited “to focus on the many crises facing working families in this country.”
Whether he is included in Biden’s cabinet or not, Sanders warned Biden not to freeze out progressives as he shapes his government.
“It seems to me pretty clear that progressive views need to be expressed within a Biden administration,” Sanders told the Associated Press. “It would be, for example, enormously insulting if Biden put together a ‘team of rivals’ and there’s some discussion that that’s what he intends to do which might include Republicans and conservative Democrats but which ignored the progressive community. I think that would be very, very unfortunate.”
The scrutiny on Biden’s staffing decisions reflects the tremendous pressure the president-elect faces. Biden’s transition team has hired Analilia Mejia, a Sanders’ adviser who served as his presidential campaign’s political director, to work on progressive outreach.
Biden told reporters Thursday that he had finalized his choice for Treasury secretary and said the pick would be “someone who will be accepted by all elements of the Democratic party, moderates and progressives.” He sidestepped a specific question about Sanders joining his Cabinet as he walked off stage.
Likely facing a divided Congress that could push back against the vast majority of his agenda, Biden is eyeing a series of executive actions to be implemented by his Cabinet that would force significant changes in health care, banking, environmental regulation, immigration and foreign policy, among other major issues.
And while progressives have not given up hope that one or both might still be nominated, they acknowledged the possibility even the likelihood that the high-profile liberal senators would remain in the Senate.
“It’s safe to say that Elizabeth Warren has definitely earned the trust and the ear of Joe Biden, and will surely have an influential role in agenda setting going forward whether it’s being a very powerful senator or a more formal role in his administration,” said Adam Green, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, among Warren’s most vocal supporters in Washington. “No matter what, she’ll be powerful when it comes to agenda setting for the Democratic Party.”