An Overview of Biden's Cabinet Elects
Updated: Jan 13
The Cabinet and Its Importance
In preparation to transition into his presidency, President-elect Joe Biden has begun making plans to fill his administration. Perhaps the most important aspect of this is his Cabinet nominees.
The Cabinet of the United States is part of the executive branch of the federal government of the U.S. Cabinet members include Vice President-elect Kamala Harris and the heads of the federal executive departments. Established in Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution, the role of the Cabinet is to “advise the President on any subject he may require relating to the duties of each member’s respective office.” This allows the president access to a variety of expert opinions, while simultaneously enforcing the system of checks and balances.
Biden’s Picks for the Three “Most Influential” Cabinet Positions
The treasury secretary is in charge of the administration’s financial and economic policies.
Janet Yellen served as the chair of the U.S. Federal Reserve System from 2014 to 2018. (Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy/Flickr)
Janet Yellen is Biden’s pick for Treasury Secretary, a choice that has been widely praised. The Washington Post columnist Catherine Rampell reported that “former Federal Reserve chair Janet L. Yellen is incomparably qualified to serve as the next treasury secretary.” An author, former economics professor, and once the only woman in her PhD class at Yale, Yellen is set to become the “first person to have headed the Treasury, the central bank and the White House Council of Economic Advisers,” and plans to stimulate economic recovery using fiscal measures, according to The Journal.
Secretary of State
The secretary of state advises the president on foreign policy issues, negotiates treaties, and represents the U.S. at the United Nations.
Antony Blinken served as Deputy Secretary of State under President Obama from 2015 to 2017. (UN Geneva/Flickr)
Biden selected his longtime aide Antony Blinken for secretary of state. According to The New York Times, “Mr. Blinken has been at Mr. Biden’s side for nearly 20 years, including as his top aide on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and later as his national security adviser when he was vice president.” Blinken attended Harvard University and has extensive foreign policy credentials. He is expected to help Biden reestablish the United States as a trusted ally that will rejoin global agreements such as the Paris climate accord.
Secretary of Defense
The secretary of defense is the president’s advisor on military and international security policy, and with the president, is considered the National Command Authority.
Lloyd Austin served as commander of United States Central Command (CENTCOM) from 2013 to 2016. (Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff/Flickr)
Biden announced Lloyd Austin as his candidate for secretary of defense on December 8, 2020. Austin is a four-star general who retired from the army in 2016. In an op-ed published in The Atlantic, Biden stated that Austin “played a crucial role in bringing home 150,000 American troops home from the threat of war.” Biden praised Austin’s “diplomacy” as well as the “honor and dignity” he displayed when handling the conflict with Iraq. However, many Americans are confused by his decision to nominate Austin, especially since he will require a congressional waiver to serve in the Pentagon after being retired for only four years.
The Most Diverse Cabinet Ever?
Cabinet diversity has come a long way since George Washington’s presidency, whose Cabinet was entirely white and male. Although Obama’s Cabinet was dubbed a “majority minority” due to the representation of seven women and nine minorities within the former president’s inner circle, Biden’s Cabinet may be the most diverse cabinet in American history. BBC News just about sums it up: “In 2021, America could soon see its first Native American cabinet secretary; first female national intelligence director; first Latino homeland security chief; first openly gay cabinet member and more.”
One of the most discussed cabinet picks is Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland, who comes from Native American descent. As stated by The Washington Post, this is “a historic pick that marks a turning point for the U.S. government’s relationship with the nation’s Indigenous peoples.” Haaland has since vowed to be “fierce for all of us, our planet, and all our protected land.”
Not only has Biden secured greater minority representation in his Cabinet, but he has pushed environmental issues to the forefront of national concern, as shown by the creation of a new cabinet level role that will be given to former secretary of state John Kerry. As explained by The New York Times, as the “special presidential envoy for climate,” Kerry will “persuade skeptical global leaders, burned by the Trump administration’s hostility toward climate science, that the United States is prepared to resume its leadership role.” Greater action against climate change contributes to a cabinet of diversified ideas.
In addition to this, Alejandro Mayorkas was chosen to serve as secretary of homeland security, making him the first Latino and first immigrant to do so; Pete Buttigieg was also chosen for the role of Secretary of Transportation, and will become the first openly LGBTQ person to serve in the cabinet.
Ohio State University political science and gender studies Professor Wendy Smooth said that these particular cabinet nominations are “a way of signalling broader initiatives and values…inextricably tied to policy, but also indicators of identity.” The diversity of Biden’s cabinet has been taken by some as an inspiration, though partisan lines remain.
“This cabinet will be more representative of the American people than any other cabinet in history,” Biden told reporters in December. While his Cabinet has received its fair share of criticism, many Americans are hopeful for what it signifies for the rest of Biden’s presidency.