Since Joe Biden was sworn in as President of the United States, America has been clamoring to learn the names of his cabinet members.
The building of a Presidential Cabinet helps America see what the President looks to do in the first 100 days of the administration. It also informs Americans about which promises will be kept after the shine of the campaign trail has passed. The Cabinet includes the people that inform the President on important issues and provide alternative viewpoints.
Biden has continuously reiterated that he wanted a cabinet that would “look like America,” PBS reported. Biden’s Cabinet includes a number of firsts, including the first Black Secretary of Defense, the first millennial cabinet secretary, the first immigrant to lead the Department of Homeland Security. This is a cabinet that includes more women and more people of color than any other cabinet in history. Additionally, the majority of Biden’s nominees belong to a younger age group than previous cabinets.
Here are some of the highlights.
Confirmed Cabinet Members
Heading the role of Secretary of State, Anthony Blinken is a well-known name in Washington. Blinken recently served as deputy national security advisor from 2013 to 2015 and deputy secretary of state from 2015 to 2017 under President Barack Obama.
As for his policies, Blinken has historically shown a tough stance regarding Russia, and stresses the need for repairing relations with European allies: “Put simply, the world is safer for the American people when we have friends, partners and allies,” Politico reported him saying. However, when it concerns Syria, Blinken is open about his stance on increased intervention. In the same article, Blinken said: “Force can be a necessary adjunct to effective diplomacy. In Syria, we rightly sought to avoid another Iraq by not doing too much, but we made the opposite error of doing too little.”
Janet Yellen, the newly confirmed Secretary of the Treasury, is another familiar face. Yellen is the first person in American history to have led the White House Council of Economic Advisors, the Federal Reserve, and the Treasury Department. She is now the first person in American history to have led the White House Council of Economic Advisors, the Federal Reserve, and the Treasury Department. Not to mention, Yellen is a founding member of the Climate Leadership Council.
Throughout her career, Yellen has earned a reputation as an economic “Dove” (Doves tend to support low interest rates and an expansionary monetary policy because they value indicators like low unemployment over keeping inflation low, according to Investopedia. Hence, she is known for her staunch support of open/free trade & globalization. In her new role, she will likely be the driving force behind Biden’s tax policy.
Biden’s new Secretary of Defense, General Lloyd Austin, sets an exciting precedent when he steps into his role as the first African American to serve as the U.S. Defense Secretary. However, this isn’t the only glass ceiling Austin has broken. He is also the first African American general officer to command a U.S. Army Division in combat, and first African American to serve as the Vice Chief of Staff of the Army and as Commander of U.S. Central Command.
General Lloyd Austin has expressed his support for the transgender community, and for their right to serve in the military. Additionally, he plans to tackle the issue of “extremism” and systemic racism within military culture.
For Biden’s Secretary of the Interior, he has chosen Representative Deb Haaland, who is the first Native American female to head this role. Considered a new addition to Washington after her election in 2019, Haaland is one of the many fresh faces Biden has nominated for his cabinet. Before serving as the representative for the 1st district of New Mexico, she started out running her own small business producing and canning Pueblo Salsa.
Haaland started her political career as the first chairwoman elected to the Laguna Development Corporation Board of Directors, where she oversaw business operations of the tribal gaming businesses in New Mexico. Her notable political stances include being strong on environmental justice, strictly opposing fossil fuel industry interests, and taking the bold position to limit all forms of oil and gas drilling on public lands, earthjustice.org states.
Pete Buttigieg made his mark on American politics during his time as a 2020 Presidential candidate. Americans were particularly struck by his time as a veteran, Harvard graduate and Rhodes scholar. He was also a two-term Mayor of South Bend Indiana and an intelligence officer in the Naval Reserve.
In Joe Biden’s Cabinet, he will be the Secretary of Transportation and his confirmation has made him the first LGBTQ+ Cabinet Secretary and the first millennial Cabinet Secretary. During his tenure, the department will have a budget of $87 billion and he plans to work on “restoring trust” in the department as the country continues to withstand the COVID-19 pandemic.
Though his name might not be as widely known as others in Biden’s cabinet, Alejandro Mayorkas’s policies are certainly familiar to the American people. Mayorkas led the creation of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program during the Obama administration. It was created during his time as the Director of U.S. Citizenship.
It is clear that immigration is an issue close to Mayorkas’ heart. He is an immigrant from Cuba and his mother immigrated to Cuba after narrowly escaping the Holocaust in Romania. After graduating from the University of California at Berkeley and Loyola Law School, Mayorkas went to work at the U.S. Attorney’s office in Los Angeles. After that, he became the youngest U.S. Attorney, working for the Central District of California after being appointed by former President Clinton. Mayorkas is the first Latino, Sephardi Jew, and immigrant to head up the Department of Homeland Security.
Denis McDonough is familiar with the halls of Washington, as former Chief of Staff for President Obama from 2013 through 2017. Previous to that prestigious tenure, he was Deputy National Security Advisor for the same administration. His confirmation makes him only the second non-veteran to head up the Department of Veterans Affairs. It also comes at a time when McDonough will be in charge of overseeing the distribution of vaccines for 18 million veterans around the United States.
Leading up to this nomination, McDonough graduated summa cum laude from St. John’s University with degrees in Spanish and History. He also got a Masters of Foreign Service from Georgetown University. He is a native of Stillwater, Minnesota.
A veteran of the Obama administration, Tom Vilsack has been confirmed to resume his role of the Secretary of Agriculture. From 2009 to 2017, Vilsack served as the 30th U.S. Secretary of Agriculture. Before this, he held the titles of governor of Iowa between 1999 and 2007, and as a senator of Iowa, 49th district between 1992 and 1999. Vilsack even tried his hand at the presidency during the 2006 election, ultimately dropping out during the primaries.
A former head of the USDA, Vilsack is one example of a return to the status quo through his centrist policy regarding the agriculture industry.
Biden’s pick for Secretary of Education is Washington outsider Miguel Cardona. He began his career as a fourth grade teacher and went on to become the youngest school principal for ten years in his home state of Connecticut. In August 2019, he was appointed to lead Connecticut’s Education Department. Cardona was a first-generation college student at Central Connecticut State University and went on to earn a Masters in Bilingual/ Bicultural Education from the University of Connecticut. Following that accomplishment, he also went on to earn a doctorate in education from the same university and an executive leadership certificate.
Since his confirmation on March 1 by a vote of 64-33, Cardona is the first Latinx person to hold the prestigious position. Throughout the pandemic, the former principal has been an ardent advocate for getting children back into school during what he has called “one of the most challenging school years in American history,” NPR reported.
Unconfirmed Cabinet Members
As for the unconfirmed members cabinet, Merrick Garland, nominee for Attorney General, has made the most headlines. Garland was originally nominated to be a judge on the Supreme Court by the Obama administration in 2016, but was never confirmed after a heated debate.
Before this, Garland was an article 3 federal judge on the US Court of Appeals for District of Columbia, and subsequently the chief judge for the District of Columbia in 2013. Garland has a lofty background in law, holding positions such as federal prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney’s office for DC, the Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division at the Department of Justice, and then as Principal Associate Deputy Attorney General.
Turning to his Secretary of Commerce, Biden nominated Gina Raimondo, another female who broke a glass ceiling by being elected in 2015 as the first female Governor of Rhode Island. Raimondo, who moved to the U.S. from Italy at the age of 14, is a member of Biden’s foreign-born nominees, another rare demographic in the presidential cabinet.
Prior to her term as Governor, Raimondo was elected to serve as General Treasurer of Rhode Island in 2010. Her economic stance is considered to be centrist, and her most famous legislative victory was the 2010 pension cut in Rhode Island so that taxes would favor the school system instead.
For the position of Secretary of Labor, current mayor of Boston, Marty Walsh, has been nominated. Prior to serving as mayor, Walsh served as a Massachusetts Representative from 1997-2014 for the Suffolk 13th district. Walsh originally got his start as the head of the Boston Building and Construction Trades Council from 2011 to 2013.
On policy issues, Walsh has advocated for stricter worker classification laws (a.k.a. no independent contracting) and better safety regulations for workers. He has also spoken in favor of raising the minimum salary for employees who are exempt under the Fair Labor Standards Act to $913 per week.
Biden’s yet unconfirmed pick for Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra is a veteran of Congress, having been a member since 1993. It was only recently that he left that post and became the Attorney General of California in 2017. Becerra was the first in his family to earn a degree and earned an undergraduate and law degree from Stanford.
Becerra was the first Latino to sit on the prestigious Ways and Means Committee where he worked on healthcare in particular. As for his stance on medicine, in 2017 said that he would “absolutely support medicare for all,” the New York Times stated. If confirmed, Becerra would be overseeing the vaccination process for COVID-19. The confirmation process promises to be difficult in winning over Republican senators due to Becerra’s stance on abortion and for his lack of healthcare experience.
President Biden’s pick for running the $50 billion Housing and Urban Development department is Marcia Fudge. She was the first Black person and the first woman to be mayor of Warrensville Heights, Ohio, a suburb of Cleveland. After being elected in 2008, Fudge went on to serve Ohio in its 11th Congressional District. It was during this time that she was also a member of the House Agriculture Committee and was the Chair of the Agricultural Subcommittee on Nutrition, Oversight, and Department Operations.
Fudge is a former Chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus and earned her B.A. from the Ohio State University and earned a law degree from Cleveland State University.
For Secretary of Energy, Biden has nominated Canadian-born Jennifer Granholm. Granholm is best known for serving two terms as Michigan Governor and for being re-elected with the most votes cast in the state’s history. She is also known for being Michigan’s first female attorney general in 1998. If confirmed, Granholm would be only the second woman to lead the energy department since its creation in 1977.
Biden is said to have selected Granholm for her connection to the auto industry as the President wants his administration to “rejuvenate the Rust Belt” economy, Politico said. The President has another goal to create net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. If confirmed, Granholm would play a key role in creating green jobs. Granholm earned degrees from the University of California at Berkeley and Harvard Law School.
This younger batch of nominees is not only exciting in Washington, but addresses the frustration that many younger Americans have felt seeing a majority older population in the White House.
JT Garcia, a junior studying theatre at USC, stated his frustration with the status quo of having majority older members in the cabinet: “If they’re over 65, they could never understand what it’s like living in America as a college-age student”.
Looking at this new batch of nominees, Biden’s presidency is one that is likely to challenge the status quo, as his younger, more diverse cabinet stands beside him.