With Inauguration Day on Jan. 20, President-elect Joe Biden has just over two months to chose a team that will help him steer the country and deal with the worst pandemic in a century and an economy deflated by the coronavirus.
“We’re going to be moving along in a consistent manner putting together our administration, the White House, reviewing who we’re going to pick for the Cabinet positions,” Biden told reporters on Tuesday. “I hope we’re able to be in a position to let people know, a least a couple, that we want before Thanksgiving.”
But with the Republicans the odds-on favorites to keep a slim majority in the Senate – the chamber of Congress that approves presidential nominations – Biden faces a tough task. But he said that his party’s inability – as of now – to regain the Senate majority won’t change his selection of nominees.
It's not just Republicans who could pose problems. There’s also pressure from the left wing of the Democratic Party, which is pushing for Biden to name strong progressives to the Cabinet.
And Biden, who during the presidential primaries promised that his Cabinet “will look like the country,” is also under pressure to name the most diverse administration in the nation’s history.
Here’s a look at some of the names being bandied about for some of the top Cabinet positions in the upcoming Biden administration.
Democratic Sen. Doug Jones of Alabama, who was defeated by Republican challenger Tommy Tuberville in last week’s election, will be out of work come January. While the former U.S. attorney in Alabama doesn’t add diversity to the Cabinet, the longtime Biden friend brings a strong civil rights record.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, a Biden rival during the battle for the Democratic presidential nomination, is also mentioned as a potential candidate for attorney general. Before being elected to the Senate in 2006, Klobuchar served as Hennepin County attorney. The county is the most populous in the state.
Democratic National Committee chair Tom Perez may also be in the running. Perez served as assistant attorney general for civil rights in President Obama’s administration before Obama named him as Labor secretary.
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra is another possible candidate, as is Sally Yates, a former deputy attorney general in the Obama administration. She gained national attention when President Trump fired her during the early days of his White House tenure for refusing to defend his executive order barring people from a handful of Muslim countries from entering the U.S.
Stacey Abrams' name is also mentioned. Abrams, who came close to becoming the first Black female elected as governor, became a leading voting rights advocate after narrowly losing the 2018 gubernatorial election in Georgia. She was also considered as Biden’s running mate.
Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey, a Biden rival during the Democratic primaries, serves on the Senate Judiciary Committee and was a leading sponsor of the sweeping criminal justice measure passed by Congress and signed into law by Trump. He would bring diversity to the Justice Department.
So would Preet Bharara, a former chief federal prosecutor in Manhattan’s Southern District of New York during the Obama years. He made national headlines when was fired by Trump soon after the new president originally asked Bharara to remain in his post.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts battled Biden during the Democratic nomination race. But the progressive champion and former Harvard law professor has a history of fighting for the working class and taking aim at the big banks and corporations. But a GOP-controlled Senate or even a 50/50 chamber could make a Warren nomination a nonstarter.
Former Federal Reserve Vice Chair Roger Ferguson – who’s the chief executive of Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association of America – and investor Mellody Hobson – would bring diversity to Treasury. But progressives would decry their ties to the corporate world.
Federal Reserve Governor Lael Brainard may be the consensus candidate. Brainard worked at the Treasury Department during the Obama administration.
Susan Rice, who served as national security adviser and U.S. ambassador to the United Nations under Obama, is considered a strong contender to serve as America’s top diplomat. She was considered earlier this year as Biden’s running mate. But she could face a rough time in a GOP-controlled Senate over her comments in the immediate aftermath of the 2012 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, that left Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans dead.
Other names that have come up for secretary of state are William Burns, a veteran Foreign Service officer who served as deputy secretary of state in the Obama administration – and Anthony Blinken, Obama’s deputy secretary of state and deputy national security adviser who served as a top Biden campaign adviser.
Democratic Sens. Chris Coons of Delaware and Chris Murphy of Connecticut are also mentioned.
Michele Flournoy, a former undersecretary of defense in the Obama administration, appears to be a leading contender. She is cofounder of the centrist think tank Center for a New American Security.
Sen. Tammy Duckworth of Illinois is also mentioned as a possible candidate for defense secretary. The Iraq War veteran, who earned a Purple Heart after she was injured when her helicopter was hit by enemy fire, was considered to be on Biden’s shortlist for a running mate. Duckworth, who ultimately lost both of her legs to her war injuries, served as director of the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs and later as assistant secretary of Veterans Affairs during the Obama administration.
Sen. Jack Reed of Rhode Island, a West Point grad who served in the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division, is also mentioned. Reed, who was also a professor at the U.S. Military Academy, is the top Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee.