Who’s who in the Biden administration

Joe Biden’s team will include Obama veterans, longtime aides and allies, as well as women and people of colour.

US President-elect Joe Biden is sworn in as the 46th president, at the US Capitol in Washington, DC [Saul Loeb/Pool via Reuters]
US President-elect Joe Biden is sworn in as the 46th president, at the US Capitol in Washington, DC [Saul Loeb/Pool via Reuters]

The administration of newly sworn-in President Joe Biden is taking shape – a team that will be tasked with putting into motion his agenda and vision for the nation.

So far, Biden has named several people to key positions on his White House staff and his Cabinet, as well as other positions in his administration. Some of his nominations have yet to be confirmed by the Senate, but here’s what we know so far:

Kamala Harris: Vice President

Vice President Kamala Harris holds the second-highest elected office in the United States. The daughter of Indian and Jamaican immigrants, she is the first woman and person of colour to become vice president. She takes office four years after becoming a US senator from California. Previously, she served as that state’s attorney general and a district attorney in San Francisco.

Kamala Harris is sworn in as vice president of the United States on January 20, 2021 [Saul Loeb/Pool via Reuters]

Antony Blinken: Secretary of State

A Biden confident with extensive foreign policy experience, Blinken has been sworn in for the nation’s top diplomat position. He previously served under the Bill Clinton administration in the State Department and was deputy secretary of state under President Barack Obama. During his confirmation hearing on January 19, he blasted the Trump administration and pledged to repair damage done to the US’s image abroad during the past four years.

Antony J Blinken speaking during his confirmation hearing to become secretary of state before the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee at the US Capitol on January 19, 2021 [Alex Edelman/Pool via Reuters]

Ron Klain: Chief of Staff

Klain is a longtime Biden aide who previously worked as his chief of staff when he was vice president. In 2014, he was appointed as Ebola czar under the Obama administration, and is expected to have a prominent role in the Biden administration’s effort to tackle the coronavirus pandemic.

Ron Klain who worked as Ebola response coordinator for the Obama administration [Kevin Lamarque/Reuters]

Janet Yellen: Treasury Secretary

Yellen won overwhelming Senate approval and became the nation’s first woman to serve as treasury secretary. She previously served as chair of the Federal Reserve. During her confirmation hearing on January 19, she laid out an ambitious economic vision for the country that includes acting aggressively to reduce economic inequality, higher taxes for the wealthy, fighting climate change and tackling the coronavirus pandemic.

If confirmed, Janet Yellen would become the nation’s first woman to serve as secretary of the treasury [Leah Millis/Reuters]

Lloyd Austin: Secretary of Defense

A retired Army general who previously was head of US forces in Iraq under Obama, Austin is the US’s first Black secretary of defense. He retired in 2016 and needed a waiver from both the Congress and the Senate to take the post – hurdles he handily cleared. During his confirmation hearing, he said he supports civilian control of the military and ending the war in Afghanistan.

Nominee for secretary of defense, Retired Army General Lloyd Austin, answering questions during his confirmation before the Senate Armed Services Committee on January 19, 2021 [Greg Nash/Pool via Reuters]

Alejandro Mayorkas: Secretary of Homeland Security

Mayorkas served as deputy secretary at the Department of Homeland Security under the Obama administration, where he led the implementation of DACA – the programme that gave protected status to migrants brought to the US as children. More recently, he pledged to confront domestic extremism following the January 6 riot at the US Capitol. If confirmed, Mayorkas who was born in Cuba, would become the first Latino and immigrant to head the department.

Alejandro Mayorkas, nominee to be secretary of homeland security, testifies during a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington [Joshua Roberts/Reuters]

Xavier Becerra: Secretary of Health and Human Services

In a critical role charged with shaping the nation’s COVID-19 response, Biden named Becerra, a veteran congressman who represented downtown Los Angeles for 24 years. He notably played a key role in the passing of Obamacare in Congress. Since 2017, he has been serving as California attorney general, and if confirmed would be the first Latino to hold this position.

Born in California, Xavier Becerra is the son of Mexican immigrants and a longtime congressman representing downtown LA [Mike Segar/Reuters]

John Kerry: US Special Climate Envoy

Former Secretary of State John Kerry will act as a Cabinet-level “climate czar” in the Biden administration. It is a newly created position that will help guide the country’s climate diplomacy. He is expected to take on a sharply different policy towards climate change than the Trump administration. The US has already taken steps to rejoin the Paris climate agreement.

John Kerry speaks at an event of the ‘World War Zero’ climate coalition during the UN Climate Change Conference (COP25) in Madrid, Spain on December 11, 2019 [Susana Vera/Reuters]

Jen Psaki: White House Press Secretary

Psaki addressed journalists for the first time in her new role on January 20, promising to bring “truth and transparency” to her dealings with the media and take as many questions as possible. The Trump administration was often accused of being combative towards journalists who criticised the administration and even called some media outlets “the enemies of the people”. Psaki previously served as the spokesperson for the State Department and as a deputy White House press secretary under Obama.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki taking questions from journalists in the James S Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House, after the inauguration of Joe Biden as the 46th President of the United States on January 20, 2021 [Tom Brenner/Reuters]

Avril Haines: Director of National Intelligence

The Senate overwhelmingly approved Haines’ nomination on January 21 for the nation’s top intelligence job. She is the first woman to head the national intelligence office. Previously, she served as deputy national security adviser and deputy director of the CIA under the Obama administration.

Avril Haines appearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee during her confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, US [Melina Mara/Pool via Reuters]

Merrick Garland: Attorney General

Garland has been serving as a federal appeals court judge since 1997. In 2016, he was nominated for the US Supreme Court by Obama, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refused to consider his nomination, arguing it was too close to a presidential election.

Judge Merrick Garland, Joe Biden’s nominee to be US attorney general, speaking after Biden announced his nomination [Kevin Lamarque/Reuters]

Linda Thomas-Greenfield: Ambassador to the United Nations

Thomas-Greenfield, a veteran in the foreign service, she served as assistant secretary of state for Africa under the Obama administration.

Linda Thomas-Greenfield, Joe Biden’s choice to become the next US ambassador to the United Nations [Joshua Roberts/Reuters]

In other significant Cabinet positions, Biden has nominated Gina Raimondo to be secretary of commerce; Deb Haaland for secretary of the interior; Marcia Fudge as secretary of housing and urban development; Miguel Cardona for secretary of education; Pete Buttigieg for secretary of transportation; Marty Walsh for secretary of labor; Jennifer Granholm for secretary of energy; and Denis McDonough for secretary of veterans affairs.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies

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