Biden-Harris administration: Here’s who could serve in top roles


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Each of Biden’s Cabinet nominees will need to be confirmed by the US Senate, which is currently controlled by Republicans. Two runoff elections in Georgia on January 5 could determine which party controls the chamber and impact the Cabinet confirmation process.

The Cabinet includes the vice president and the heads of 15 executive departments: Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Education, Energy, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, Housing and Urban Development, Interior, Justice, Labor, State, Transportation, Treasury and Veterans Affairs.

Several key positions also have Cabinet-level rank: White House chief of staff, Environmental Protection Agency administrator, Office of Management & Budget director, United States Trade Representative ambassador, Council of Economic Advisers chairman and Small Business Administration administrator.

This list will be updated based on conversations with Biden allies and advisers and Democrats with knowledge of the matter.

Here’s who has been mentioned in conversations about potential top roles in the Biden administration:

Chief of Staff

Ron Klain (announced on November 11)

Ron Klain, former White House Ebola response coordinator, speaks during a House Homeland Security Subcommittee hearing in Washington, D.C., U.S., on March 10, 2020.

Klain, a longtime Biden aide who was a top campaign adviser, served as Biden’s chief of staff in the Obama White House and was also a senior aide to the President. He previously served as the chief of staff to Vice President Al Gore and Attorney General Janet Reno. Klain was appointed in 2014 by President Barack Obama to serve as the White House Ebola Response Coordinator. In 2000, he was the General Counsel for the Gore Recount Committee. Klain has been a top debate preparation adviser to Biden, Obama, Bill Clinton, Gore, John Kerry and Hillary Clinton.

Senior White House positions

Cedric Richmond

Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-La., votes to approve the second article of impeachment  as the House Judiciary Committee holds a public hearing to vote on the two articles of impeachment against U.S. President Donald Trump on December 13, 2019 in Washington, DC.

A co-chair of Biden’s transition team and presidential campaign, the Democratic congressman from Louisiana is thought to be under consideration for several roles in the West Wing. Richmond previously served as the chairman of the influential Congressional Black Caucus.

Secretary of State

Susan Rice

Former National Security Advisor Susan Rice arrives to speak at the J Street 2018 National Conference April 16, 2018 in Washington, DC.

Rice served in the Obama administration as UN ambassador and national security adviser. She served in Clinton’s administration as the special assistant to the president and senior director for African affairs at the White House, the assistant secretary for the Bureau of African Affairs at the State Department and the director of international organizations and peacekeeping at the National Security Council. Rice was one of a handful of women on Biden’s shortlist for a running mate.

Rice at one point was thought to be the clear choice to succeed Hillary Clinton as secretary of state, but in 2012 withdrew her name from consideration to avoid a bitter Senate confirmation battle. Rice was the target of Republican criticism after comments she made on Sunday morning TV shows defending the Obama administration’s handling of the September 11, 2012, attacks on the Benghazi consulate that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans.

Antony Blinken

US Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken takes part in a naturalization ceremony on World Refugee Day in recognition of those who have come to the US with refugee or asylum seeker status, at the US Holocaust Museum on June 20, 2016 in Washington, DC.

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 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.

Blinken is also being considered as national security adviser.

Sen. Chris Coons

Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE) asks a question to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo as he testifies during a Senate Foreign Relations committee hearing on the State Departments 2021 budget in the Dirksen Senate Office Building in Washington, DC on 30 July 2020.

Coons currently occupies the same Delaware Senate seat that Biden held for decades. A longtime Biden ally, Coons was one of the first members of Congress to endorse the former vice president when he declared his 2020 presidential candidacy. Coons sits on the following committees in the Senate: Foreign Relations, Appropriations, Judiciary, Small Business & Entrepreneurship and Select Committee on Ethics. Throughout his Senate career, Coons has been known for working across the aisle and forging strong relationships with high-profile Republicans who shared common interests.

Secretary of the Treasury

Lael Brainard

US Federal Reserve Governor Lael Brainard attends a "Fed Listens" event at the Federal Reserve headquarters in Washington, DC, on October 4, 2019.
Brainard currently serves as a member of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System. She previously served as the Under Secretary of the US Department of the Treasury and counselor to the secretary of the Treasury during the Obama administration. Brainard was the US representative to the G-20 Finance Deputies and G-7 Deputies and was a member of the Financial Stability Board. During the Clinton administration, Brainard served as the deputy national economic adviser and deputy assistant to the President. She also served as Clinton’s personal representative to the G-7/G-8.

If chosen, the Federal Reserve governor would be the first woman to hold the powerful position. Brainard is not quite a consensus pick. Party progressives have other favorites, but neither would her nomination set off the kind of internal ideological war the incoming administration surely wants to avoid.

Sarah Bloom Raskin

US Deputy Secretary of the Treasury Sarah Bloom Raskin (C) attends the opening ceremony of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC)  Finance Ministers's Meeting in Beijing on October 22, 2014.

Raskin was the deputy secretary of the US Department of the Treasury during the Obama administration. She was previously a governor of the Federal Reserve Board. Prior to joining the Federal Reserve Board, Raskin was the commissioner of financial regulation for the state of Maryland.

Outside of Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Raskin, a former deputy secretary at the department, would be the top choice for most progressives. That she is less well known to the wider political world could also work in favor.

Secretary of Defense

Michèle Flournoy

Michele Flournoy, President, Center for a New American Security looks on during a conference on the transition of the US Presidency from Obama to Trump at the US Institute Of Peace at the US Institute Of Peace in Washington DC, January 10, 2017.

If chosen and confirmed, Flournoy would be the first female secretary of defense. Flournoy served as the under secretary of defense for policy under Obama. Prior to her confirmation, Flournoy helped lead Obama’s transition team at the Defense Department. During the mid-1990’s, Flournoy served as principal deputy assistant secretary of defense for strategy and threat reduction, as well as deputy assistant secretary of defense for strategy. She co-founded the Center for a New American Security, a bipartisan think tank, and WestExec Advisors, a strategic advisory firm. Flournoy was a senior advisor at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Secretary of Homeland Security

Alejandro Mayorkas

US Vice President Joe Biden speaks alongside Amy Pope (L), Senior Director at the National Security Council, and Ali Mayorkas (R), Department of Homeland Security Deputy Secretary, during the opening session of the White House Summit on Countering Violent Extremism at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington, DC, February 17, 2015.

Mayorkas 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 and was ultimately blocked by the Supreme Court from doing so.

Lisa Monaco

Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism and former National Security Division Assistant Attorney General Lisa Monaco speaks during an interview with Aspen Institute President and CEO Walter Isaacson during a conference between The Center for Strategic and International Studies(CSIS and the Justice Department at the CSIS building September 14, 2016 in Washington, D.C.

Monaco played a critical role in Biden’s vice presidential selection committee, and served as Homeland Security and counterterrorism advisor to Obama. Prior to that job, Monaco served as an assistant attorney general for national security at the Department of Justice, and was a chief of staff to then-Director of the FBI Robert S. Mueller III.

Attorney General

Sen. Doug Jones

Senator Doug Jones holds a news conference to call for a vote on the "FUTURE Act" in the Capitol on November 6, 2019.

Jones is the junior United States Senator from Alabama. He lost his reelection bid earlier this month to Republican Tommy Tuberville. President Bill Clinton appointed Jones as US Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama, and Jones was the lead prosecutor suing KKK members responsible for the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing. Jones was also involved in the prosecution of Eric Rudolph, whose 1998 attack on a Birmingham abortion clinic killed an off-duty police officer.

Sally Yates

Former acting U.S. Attorney General Sally Yates testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism in the Hart Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill May 8, 2017 in Washington, DC.

Yates was fired by Trump from her role as acting attorney general. The stunning move came after CNN and other outlets reported that Yates told Justice Department lawyers not to make legal arguments defending Trump’s executive order on immigration and refugees. Trump’s executive order, signed in January 2017, barred citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States for the following 90 days, suspended the admission of all refugees for 120 days and indefinitely suspended the Syrian refugee program. The executive order was later blocked by a federal judge, but the Supreme Court ultimately upheld a revised version of the ban.

Yates had been appointed by Obama and was set to serve until Trump’s nominee for attorney general was confirmed.

Secretary of the Interior

Rep. Deb Haaland

Representative Debra Haaland (D-NM) speaks  during a House Natural Resources Committee hearing on "The US Park Police Attack on Peaceful Protesters at Lafayette Square", on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, on June 29, 2020.

Haaland is a congresswoman from New Mexico, and is one of the first Native American women to serve in Congress. Biden has said he wants an administration that looks like the country. Haaland, the vice chair of the House Natural Resources Committee, would be the first Native American Cabinet secretary if she were to get an offer and accept it. Haaland also leads the Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands.

Secretary of Labor

Sara Nelson

Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, is pictured on the East Front of the Capitol on Wednesday, August 5, 2020.

Nelson is the international president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA. She cemented her image as a rising star of the labor movement during a prolonged government shutdown that stretched from December 2018 to January 2019. During the shutdown, Nelson appeared on cable television and used social media to warn of the dangers of not paying airport workers, and called for a general strike at an AFL-CIO gathering in January.

Sen. Bernie Sanders

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders arrives to speak during a campaign rally at the Convention Center in Los Angeles, California on March 1, 2020.
Sanders is reaching out to potential supporters in labor to ask for their support as he mounts a campaign for the job. But he is viewed as a long shot and so far has received mix reactions from labor leaders. In his public comments before and after the election, he focused on a 100-day agenda for the Congress. But with Democrats likely needing to win both Georgia runoffs to take control of the Senate, running a powerful agency might have become more appealing.

Sanders told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on Wednesday that if Biden asked him to join his Cabinet as Labor secretary, he would accept the nomination. “If I had a portfolio that allowed me to stand up and fight for working families, would I do it? Yes, I would,” Sanders said.

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh speaks at a press conference announcing the postponement of the Boston Marathon to September 15th on March 13, 2020 in Boston, Massachusetts.

Walsh is AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka’s pick for the job, a big endorsement in what could soon turn into a contentious debate between moderate Democrats and progressives, who will favor Sen. Bernie Sanders or Michigan Rep. Andy Levin. Walsh grew up in a union family and became a top Boston labor leader before being elected mayor.

Michigan Rep. Andy Levin

 Rep. Andy Levin, D-Mich., conducts a news conference with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., in the Capitol on the "EV Freedom Act, which would create a nationwide electric vehicle charging infrastructure on Thursday, February 6, 2020.

Levin is a popular progressive who is also growing his base of support with labor leaders, including at the Communications Workers of America. The United Auto Workers are also likely allies going forward for the Michigan congressman. Like Walsh, Levin has a background as an organizer with major unions. But he also has credibility with climate activists for having helped create Michigan’s Green Jobs Initiative.

Health and Human Services Secretary

Vivek Murthy

In this Feb. 4, 2014, photo, then U.S. Surgeon General appointee Dr. Vivek Murthy appears on Capitol Hill in Washington. Murthy has been named as co-chair by President-elect Joe Biden to his COVID-19 advisory board.

Murthy, a doctor of internal medicine, is the co-chair of Biden’s coronavirus advisory board. He previously served as the US surgeon general after being nominated by Obama. He resigned in April 2017 at the request of the Trump administration. He was confirmed by the Senate after facing opposition from Senate Republicans for calling to treat gun violence as a public health issue.

Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary

Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms

Mayor of Atlanta Keisha Lance Bottoms speaks onstage during the 2018 Essence Festival presented by Coca-Cola at Ernest N. Morial Convention Center on July 7, 2018 in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Bottoms is the mayor of Atlanta and is a rising star of the Democratic Party. Bottoms stepped into the national spotlight when she denounced vandalism in her city as “chaos” after demonstrations over the death of George Floyd, a Black man who was killed by police in Minneapolis. Bottoms is a former judge and city council member. She was considered as a potential running mate for Biden.

Secretary of Education

Randi Weingarten

Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, conducts a town hall at the AFT in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, September 19, 2019.

Weingarten is the president of the American Federation of Teachers, AFL-CIO and has long pushed for education reform. Prior to holding that role, she was the president of the United Federation of Teachers, AFT Local 2. Weingarten served on an education reform commission put together by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. She also chaired New York City’s Municipal Labor Committee.

Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency

Jay Inslee

Democratic presidential candidate and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee speaks during a forum on gun safety at the Iowa Events Center on August 10, 2019 in Des Moines, Iowa. The event was hosted by Everytown for Gun Safety.

Inslee is the governor of Washington state, and previously served in the US House of Representatives. He was a Democratic presidential candidate in the 2020 election. Inslee is dedicated to addressing climate change and other environmental issues, and made the environment the central focus of his 2020 presidential bid. While in the US House of Representatives, he served on the House Committee on Energy and Commerce and on the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming.

UN ambassador

Pete Buttigieg

Democratic presidential candidate former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg is interviewed on MSNBC inside the spin room at Bally's Las Vegas Hotel & Casino after the Democratic presidential primary debate on February 19, 2020 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Buttigieg is the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, and a former 2020 Democratic presidential candidate. Buttigieg’s presidential bid was historic — he was the first out gay man to launch a competitive campaign for president, and he broke barriers by becoming the first gay candidate to earn primary delegates for a major party’s presidential nomination.

CNN’s MJ Lee, Priscilla Alvarez and Jessica Dean contributed to this report.

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