President-elect Joe Biden has signaled his intention to draw from a diverse cross section of America in building his cabinet. Unlike President Donald Trump’s cabinet, which is more white and male than any in nearly 40 years, Biden’s list of likely top advisers promises to reflect 21st-century sensibilities.
“Across the board — from our classrooms to our courtrooms to the president’s cabinet — we have to make sure that our leadership and our institutions actually look like America,” Biden wrote in an op-ed last summer.
In naming the group, Biden must appease progressives within his own party while gaining support from Republicans who may still control the Senate. Biden is likely to include Republicans in his cabinet as he attempts to engineer a working relationship between the parties.
Biden’s transition team, led by former Sen. Ted Kaufman of Delaware, a longtime confidant, already has been working on a list of candidates.
These are names that have emerged as possible picks for posts.
— Agriculture Department
Heidi Heitkamp: A former North Dakota senator who served on the Agriculture Committee, Heitkamp is a strong advocate for rural issues. She has criticized the Trump administration’s trade policies, which led to tariffs on soybean exports to China.
Amy Klobuchar: A Minnesota senator, former prosecutor in Minneapolis and candidate for the Democratic nomination, Klobuchar, who was at one point in contention for Biden’s running mate, has advocated increasing support for agricultural commodities, disaster programs and federal crop insurance. (Klobuchar has also been mentioned as a possible attorney general.)
Tom Donilon: Donilon, who served as national security adviser under President Barack Obama, has been tied to Biden since 1987, when he worked on his first presidential campaign. A lawyer, he also oversaw the transition planning for the Clinton-Kaine campaign in 2016.
Avril Haines: A former deputy CIA director and former deputy national security adviser, Haines has held several posts at Columbia University since leaving the Obama administration. (Haines has also been mentioned as a candidate for director of national intelligence.)
Mike Morell: Morell is a former foreign service officer who served as both CIA deputy director and twice as its acting director. He is now in private business, chairing the geopolitical risk practice at Beacon Global Strategies, a consulting firm in Washington.
— Defense Department
Tammy Duckworth: A former Army lieutenant colonel who lost both legs when her helicopter came under fire in Iraq in 2004, Duckworth, a senator from Illinois, was an assistant secretary of veterans affairs during the Obama administration. She was among women considered as Biden’s running mate. If appointed, she would become the first Thai American cabinet member in addition to the first woman in the role of defense secretary. (Duckworth has also been mentioned as a potential secretary of veterans affairs.)
Michèle A. Flournoy: Flournoy, a former deputy assistant secretary of defense, is regarded as the leading choice for this job. Flournoy, who would be the first woman in this role, has advised Biden’s campaign on defense issues and is regarded as highly qualified. Her industry ties — she serves on the board of the defense contractor Booz Allen Hamilton — could annoy progressives.
Jeh Johnson: Johnson is a former secretary of Homeland Security who previously served as general counsel at the Pentagon. He would be the first Black secretary of defense. His membership on the board of the defense contractor Lockheed Martin could be a sticking point for progressives. (Johnson has also been mentioned as a candidate for attorney general and director of national intelligence.)
— Director of National Intelligence
Susan M. Gordon: Gordon was a principal deputy director of national intelligence in the Trump administration, a post from which she resigned in 2019 after the president did not promote her to director of national intelligence. Gordon began her intelligence career nearly 40 years ago as an analyst at the CIA, rising to senior executive positions at the agency. (Gordon has also been mentioned as a possible CIA director.)
Lisa Monaco: The top adviser on Homeland Security to Obama, Monaco has had a long and varied government career. At the Justice Department, she was an assistant attorney general for national security and served as chief of staff to former FBI director Robert Mueller. She has long-standing ties to Biden, having worked during the 1990s on his Senate Judiciary Committee staff, where she helped craft the Violence Against Women Act.
— Education Department
Lily Eskelsen García: A former teacher and former president of the National Education Association, a labor union, Eskelsen García ran for Congress in Utah in 1998 and campaigned for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential race.
Randi Weingarten: Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, is a former Brooklyn public high school teacher who previously served as president of the United Federation of Teachers.
— Energy Department
Jay Inslee: After failing to gain traction in his presidential bid — in which climate change was his primary focus — Inslee was easily reelected to a third term as Washington’s governor. Environmental activists are promoting his name, pointing to his plan to close U.S. coal plants by 2030 and reach net-zero emissions by 2045. (Inslee has also been promoted for appointment as secretary of the interior or head of the Environmental Protection Agency.)
Ernest Moniz: A nuclear physicist, Moniz served in the Obama administration as energy secretary, a job that largely involves managing the country’s nuclear arsenal. He played a critical role in negotiating technical details of the Iran nuclear deal. Since leaving the administration, he has been chief executive of the Nuclear Threat Initiative, which works to prevent nuclear, biological and cyber attacks.
Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall: Sherwood-Randall is a professor at Georgia Tech who served in the Obama administration as deputy secretary of energy, where she managed the National Nuclear Security Administration and 17 federal laboratories. She also served as a White House adviser on weapons of mass destruction and arms control. During the Clinton administration, she worked as deputy assistant secretary of defense for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia.
— Health and Human Services Department
Mandy Cohen: As the secretary of North Carolina’s Health and Human Services Department, Cohen is known for her ambitious effort to transform the way the state pays for health care. A physician, Cohen served as the chief operating officer at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in the Obama administration.
David Kessler: A former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, Kessler, a physician, was credited with tackling the tobacco industry and helping speed approval of more than a dozen drugs to treat HIV. In doing so, he worked closely with Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert.
Michelle Lujan Grisham: Grisham, the governor of New Mexico and a former member of Congress, also previously served as cabinet secretary for New Mexico’s departments of health and aging. Grisham, who was among those considered for Biden’s running mate, was recently appointed as one of five co-chairs of Biden’s transition team. (Grisham also has been mentioned as a possible interior secretary.)
Vivek Murthy: One of Biden’s top advisers on the coronavirus, Murthy is a former surgeon general and an outspoken advocate of more stringent gun control.
— Homeland Security Department
Val Demings: Demings, a member of Congress from Florida, is a former Orlando police chief with a 27-year career in law enforcement. She was among the women considered by the Biden team as a running mate.
Alejandro Mayorkas: A Cuban American lawyer, Mayorkas was responsible for running Citizenship and Immigration Services at the department under Obama. He also served as a federal prosecutor in central California. Under Obama, Mayorkas was regarded as instrumental in negotiating a memorandum of understanding with Cuba.
— Housing and Urban Development Department
Karen Bass: Bass, a longtime member of Congress from California, chairs the Congressional Black Caucus. A community organizer before she entered politics, she is well-versed on the housing challenges facing her South Los Angeles district. She was among the women Biden considered as his running mate. (A physician assistant by training, Bass has also been mentioned as a potential secretary of health and human services.)
Alvin Brown: A former mayor of Jacksonville, Florida, Brown was an adviser to Andrew Cuomo during his tenure as secretary of housing and urban development, worked on the Clinton-Gore transition team, and served at the Commerce Department during the Clinton administration.
Maurice Jones: Jones, a top deputy at the department during the Obama administration, currently runs the Local Initiatives Support Corporation, a financial institution that makes loans and provides grants to assist underserved communities. Jones also served as Virginia’s secretary of commerce under Gov. Terry McAuliffe.
Keisha Lance Bottoms: The mayor of Atlanta, Bottoms has been a campaign surrogate for Biden and was among the women he considered as a running mate. Bottoms has made affordable housing a priority, proposing a $1 billion public-private initiative to improve access to housing in Atlanta.
Diane Yentel: Yentel leads the National Low Income Housing Coalition, a Washington-based nonprofit group that successfully opposed many of Trump’s proposed cuts to federal housing programs.
— Interior Department
Steve Bullock: The governor of Montana, Bullock recently lost a close Senate race to Steve Daines, a Republican incumbent. Bullock has been active in environmental issues: In 2014, he signed an executive order creating a habitat for sage grouse, and as state attorney general he wrote an opinion guaranteeing access to public lands.
Deb Haaland: Indigenous groups are promoting New Mexico Rep. Haaland, a member of the Laguna Pueblo tribe. The Interior Department presides over millions of acres held in trust as tribal land. Haaland serves as vice chairperson of the House Natural Resources Committee.
Martin Heinrich: Yet another New Mexico resident mentioned for the interior job, Sen. Heinrich, an avid outdoorsman, has promoted the idea of developing a national outdoor recreation plan using federal lands.
Tom Udall: A New Mexico senator who decided not to run for a third term, Udall has fought to protect federal property from oil and gas drilling and has promoted the designation of wilderness areas in New Mexico. If Udall is picked, he will be keeping up a family tradition: His father, Stewart Udall, served as interior secretary during the Kennedy and Johnson administrations.
— Justice Department
Xavier Becerra: Becerra has developed a progressive track record as a California state official and during his career in Congress. He succeeded Vice President-elect Kamala Harris as California attorney general and is now widely viewed as a possible heir to her Senate seat.
Doug Jones: Following his unlikely Senate win in a special election in deep-red Alabama in 2017, Jones, a former federal prosecutor, was unable to hold on to his seat this year. He is widely admired within the party for pulling off that upset, as well as for his impeccable civil rights record. He is white, though, and some of Biden’s supporters may want the Justice Department in the hands of a Black or Latino attorney general.
Tom Perez: The Democratic Party chairperson, Perez has a long career in government, notably as secretary of labor and, earlier, as assistant attorney general for civil rights. In that role, he led a federal investigation of Trayvon Martin’s killing in Sanford, Florida, brought a lawsuit against Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio for a pattern of abuses against Latinos, and enforced civil rights laws for gay and transgender people. (Perez has also been mentioned as a candidate for labor secretary.)
Sally Yates: Yates, a former U.S. attorney in Atlanta and deputy attorney general, briefly held the role of acting attorney general during the early weeks of the Trump administration. Her tenure lasted 10 days; she was fired for insubordination by Trump when she advised him that the Justice Department could not defend his ban on travel to the United States by citizens of several Muslim-majority countries.
— Labor Department
Seth Harris: Harris, a former deputy labor secretary who served as acting secretary in 2013, also advised the Obama administration on legislation before the Senate. A lawyer, he is a fellow at Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations.
Andy Levin: The Michigan congressman is a former labor organizer for the Service Employees International Union and later the AFL-CIO, where he was assistant director of organizing. He also worked as a staff lawyer in the Labor Department.
Bernie Sanders: The Vermont senator is interested in serving as labor secretary, according to a person close to him, and his camp and Biden’s team have been seriously discussing the possibility since he withdrew from the presidential race in April. There is no deal, and it is still unclear what role Sanders would play in a Biden administration.
Julie Su: Su is the secretary of California’s Labor and Workforce Development Agency and a former California labor commissioner. She is an expert on workers’ rights and a past recipient of a MacArthur “genius” grant.
— National Security Adviser
Antony Blinken: An aide to Biden on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Blinken has served as Biden’s top foreign affairs adviser. He served as deputy secretary of state during the Obama administration, as well as deputy national security adviser. More recently, he has been managing director of the Penn Biden Center, an international policy center at the University of Pennsylvania. He has also been a contributing opinion writer for the The New York Times.
— State Department
William J. Burns: Burns, president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, is a retired foreign service officer and former ambassador to Russia and Jordan. A former deputy secretary of state and special assistant to secretaries Warren Christopher and Madeleine Albright, he is also a contributing writer at The Atlantic.
Chris Coons: A leading member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Coons hails from Biden’s home state and is one of his closest friends. Coons would most likely be easily confirmed because of his collegial relations with Senate Republicans. One downside: Coons could be invaluable to Biden as a steward of his agenda on Capitol Hill.
Susan Rice: A former national security adviser, Rice was among the small group of women Biden considered for his running mate. Rice is a former assistant secretary of state and United Nations ambassador, and she is viewed as a leading expert on Africa.
— Transportation Department
Eric Garcetti: The Los Angeles mayor has promoted the use of public transportation during his administration, purchasing a clean-air bus fleet and proposing fare-free bus and train rides. He has also released a plan to eliminate traffic deaths by 2025.
— Treasury Department
Raphael Bostic: The first African American and the first openly gay man to lead a regional Federal Reserve Bank, Bostic is president of the Atlanta Fed. He previously worked as an economist for the Federal Reserve and served as a board member at Freddie Mac. Bostic is known for his argument that systemic racism damages the overall economy. No Black person has ever filled the job of Treasury secretary.
Lael Brainard: A member of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors and a former undersecretary at the Treasury Department, Brainard has voted against regulatory rollbacks and has warned that the economic risks caused by the coronavirus are not over. She has also urged the Fed to focus on climate change and its impact on the economy. Brainard is regarded as a moderate, and she has been criticized from the left for her reluctance to take a hard line on currency manipulation while at the Treasury.
Sarah Bloom Raskin: A former deputy Treasury secretary and a former member of the Fed’s Board of Governors, Raskin also previously served as Maryland’s commissioner of financial regulation. She is a lawyer and a visiting professor at Duke University.
Elizabeth Warren: A favorite of progressive groups, the Massachusetts senator, presidential candidate and former Obama adviser has spent her career advocating for pro-consumer financial reforms and stronger banking regulation. She spearheaded the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a federal watchdog agency, and was among those considered as Biden’s running mate. Given her progressive positions, Warren’s confirmation might not be assured in a Senate controlled by Republicans.
Janet L. Yellen: Well known because of her high-profile service as chair of the Federal Reserve from 2014 to 2018, Yellen was also president of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco and chair of the White House Council of Economic Advisers under President Bill Clinton. She is a labor economist who believes that government regulation and intervention are required to ensure that markets run efficiently.
— Veterans Affairs Department
Pete Buttigieg: Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, and a Democratic presidential candidate, is a former Navy officer who served in Afghanistan. As one of only two candidates for the Democratic nomination with military experience, Buttigieg, who is gay, was endorsed by a progressive group of veterans, VoteVets. (Buttigieg has also been mentioned as ambassador to the United Nations.)
Robert A. McDonald: A former veterans affairs secretary during the Obama administration, McDonald could be making a return to his old job. An Army veteran and a former chief executive of Procter & Gamble, during his administration he placed an emphasis on reducing homelessness among veterans.