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What you need to know about Biden’s cabinet picks

Several of Biden’s picks would make history if confirmed by the United States Senate as the first woman or person of color to serve in their role. Many also have decades of experience in their field and served in President Barack Obama’s administration.

Here’s what you need to know about each of Biden’s nominees, who will all need Senate confirmation:

Lloyd Austin, Secretary of Defense
  • Austin would make history as the first Black person to lead the Pentagon if confirmed by the Senate.
  • Austin is a retired Army general and is the former commander of the US Central Command.
  • He has worked closely with Biden in the past. While Biden was vice president, Austin served as the vice chief of staff of the Army and commanding general of US forces in Iraq, and later the commander of CENTCOM. Biden and Austin had discussions on a range of issues, including those in the Middle East and Central and South Asia.
  • Austin would need a congressional waiver to be confirmed for the civilian post because federal law requires seven years of retirement from active duty before taking on the role. Austin retired from active-duty service only four years ago.
Xavier Becerra, Secretary of Health and Human Services
  • Becerra would be the first Latino to lead the Department of Health and Human Services if confirmed by the Senate.
  • He currently serves as California’s attorney general, and is the first Latino to hold that office in the history of the state.
  • Becerra has been a chief defender of the Affordable Care Act in court. As the Trump administration and a coalition of Republican state attorneys general fight to invalidate the landmark health reform law, Becerra has led a group of Democratic attorneys general arguing why the law remains valid.
  • Becerra served 12 terms in Congress as a member of the US House of Representatives and held several leadership posts. He was the chair of the House Democratic Caucus, the chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and the ranking member of the Ways and Means Subcommittee on Social Security. He was also the first Latino to serve as a member of the Ways and Means Committee.
  • Becerra also served one term in the California Legislature and is a former deputy attorney general with the California Department of Justice. 
Antony Blinken, Secretary of State
  • Blinken served in the Obama administration as the deputy secretary of state, assistant to the president and principal deputy national security adviser. He served as the national security adviser to then-Vice President Biden and deputy assistant to the president during Obama’s first term.
  • He has been a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, and was the Democratic staff director at the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.
  • During the Clinton administration, Blinken served as a member of the National Security Council staff at the White House, and held roles as the special assistant to the president, senior director for European affairs and senior director for speechwriting and then strategic planning. He was Clinton’s chief foreign policy speechwriter.
Linda Thomas-Greenfield, US ambassador to the United Nations
  • Thomas-Greenfield is a career diplomat who would return to public service after retiring from a 35-year career with the US Foreign Service in 2017.
  • Under the Obama administration, Thomas-Greenfield served as the assistant secretary for the Bureau of African Affairs from 2013 to 2017. Prior to that post, she served as director general of the Foreign Service and director of human resources.
  • Thomas-Greenfield has served as an ambassador to Liberia, and has also been posted to Switzerland, Pakistan, Kenya, The Gambia, Nigeria and Jamaica.
  • Thomas-Greenfield served as principal deputy assistant secretary of the Bureau of African Affairs from 2006 to 2008 and as deputy assistant secretary of the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration from 2004 to 2006.
  • Since retiring in 2017, Thomas-Greenfield has led the Africa practice at the Albright Stonebridge Group, a diplomacy firm chaired by former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.
Avril Haines, Director of National Intelligence
  • Haines would become the first woman to serve as director of national intelligence if confirmed by the Senate.
  • Haines served as assistant to the president and principal deputy national security adviser to Obama. She chaired the National Security Council’s Deputies Committee, which is responsible for formulating the administration’s national security and foreign policy.
  • Haines previously served as the deputy director of the Central Intelligence Agency. Haines was also legal adviser to the NSC. She served as deputy chief counsel to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee while Biden served as chairman.
Alejandro Mayorkas, Secretary of Homeland Security
  • Mayorkas would be the first Latino and immigrant as secretary of the Department of Homeland Security if confirmed by the Senate.
  • He was deputy secretary of Homeland Security during the Obama administration, and served as the director of the Department of Homeland Security’s United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.
  • While at USCIS, Mayorkas oversaw the implementation of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which was an executive action under Obama that protected young undocumented immigrants who came to the US as children from deportation. President Donald Trump moved to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program in 2017 but was ultimately blocked by the Supreme Court from doing so.
Vivek Murthy, US Surgeon General
  • Murthy previously served as the US surgeon general under the Obama administration from 2014 to 2017.
  • As surgeon general under Obama, Murthy helped lead the national response to the Ebola and Zika viruses and the opioid crisis, among other health challenges.
  • Murthy has been a top health adviser to Biden since the campaign. He was part of Biden’s public health advisory committee as the pandemic first took hold in the US and has been serving as a co-chair of the President-elect’s Covid-19 advisory board during the transition.
  • Murthy faced opposition from some Republicans during his Senate confirmation process in 2014 because of his characterization of gun violence in the US as a public health crisis. He was ultimately narrowly confirmed, but could face an uphill battle in the Senate once again if Republicans keep a majority in the chamber. 
Cecilia Rouse, Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers
Chair of Council of Economic Advisers nominee Cecilia Rouse speaks after US President-elect Joe Biden announced his economic team at The Queen Theatre in Wilmington, Delaware, on December 1, 2020.
  • Rouse would be the first woman of color to chair the Council of Economic Advisers if confirmed by the Senate.
  • Rouse has served as the dean of the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs, as well as a professor of economics and public affairs at Princeton University.
  • Rouse previously served as a member of Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers. She also worked at the National Economic Council in the Clinton administration as a special assistant to the president.
Neera Tanden, Director of the Office of Management and Budget
  • Tanden would be the first woman of color and first South Asian American to become director of the Office of Management and Budget if confirmed by the Senate.
  • Tanden is the CEO and president of the left-leaning Center for American Progress, and is the CEO of the Center for American Progress Action Fund.
  • Biden’s transition team is bracing for a tough Senate confirmation battle for Tanden, who is already facing fierce opposition from Senate Republicans. Tanden has frequently sparred with Republicans and the progressive wing of the Democratic Party on Twitter.
  • Tanden previously served in the Obama and Clinton administrations. She was a senior adviser for health reform at the Department of Health and Human Services, and also served as the director of domestic policy for the Obama campaign. She was the policy director for Hillary Clinton’s first presidential campaign, and worked in Clinton’s Senate office.
Janet Yellen, Treasury Secretary
  • Yellen would make history as the first woman to serve as Treasury secretary if confirmed by the Senate.
  • Yellen already made history as the first woman to have chaired the Federal Reserve, serving from 2014 to 2018. She previously served for four years as the vice chair of the board, and president and chief executive officer of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco for four years prior to that.
  • Yellen was also chair of the White House Council of Economic Advisers from 1997 to 1999.

This story will be updated with additional nominees.


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