November 24, 2020
On Monday, the transition team for President-elect Joe Biden confirmed a number of Cabinet appointments to high-profile positions, naming women and people of color to roles within the federal government previously exclusively held by white men. The announcement of the federal appointments comes just three weeks after Election Day.
While President Trump has yet to concede the race, the Biden transition team’s determination to build out the federal government despite not having access to transition funds is important for a few reasons. First, the Biden team is working diligently to restore traditional order to Washington, D.C., which was largely undercut by Trump’s penchant for nepotism and general dislike for governmental norms. And second, it would appear that Biden is following through on his promise to elevate voices previously ignored by the federal government.
So far, Biden has nominated Linda Thomas-Greenfield, a former high-ranking U.S. diplomat for the Obama administration, to be his ambassador to the United Nations. He’ll also reportedly re-elevate the ambassadorship to Cabinet-level status; the nationalistic Trump downgraded the position after his first U.N. ambassador, Nikki Haley, resigned. By making the U.N. ambassador once again a Cabinet-level post, Thomas-Greenfield, a Black woman, will be part of Biden’s National Security Council meetings.
For the head of the Department of Homeland Security, Biden has tapped Alejandro Mayorkas, a former deputy secretary for DHS, and he has named Avril Haines, a former national security adviser in the Obama administration, as his director of national intelligence. It also broke Monday afternoon that Biden intends to nominate Janet Yellen to the position of Treasury Secretary.
Each nominee is notable in their own right, with an impressive resume and long history in government service — which is itself a departure from the Trump administration’s strategy of nominating so-called “outsiders.” But several of Biden’s choices also represent U.S. firsts: Mayorkas will be the first Latino head of DHS, Haines will be the first woman to fill the role of national intelligence director, and Thomas-Greenfield will join the few number of Black women elevated to high-profile global-facing positions. Yellen, the former chair of the Federal Reserve, would also be the first woman to hold the position of Treasury Secretary if she’s confirmed.
Biden said in a statement provided by his transition team, “We have no time to lose when it comes to our national security and foreign policy,” per The New York Times. The president-elect also elaborated on his desire to improve the U.S.’s diminished place as a world leader. “I need a team ready on Day 1 to help me reclaim America’s seat at the head of the table, rally the world to meet the biggest challenges we face, and advance our security, prosperity, and values. This is the crux of that team,” Biden said.
Biden lauded each individual, saying that his nominees are “as experienced and crisis-tested as they are innovative and imaginative.” Biden added that he believes each will be able to meet the mounting and multiple crises facing the U.S. and the world. The nominees “reflect the idea that we cannot meet the profound challenges of this new moment with old thinking and unchanged habits — or without diversity of background and perspective,” Biden said in his statement, per the Times.
Others in the political world celebrated the choices, including Julián Castro, the secretary of housing and urban development under President Barack Obama and himself a 2020 Democratic candidate for president. “Alejandro Mayorkas is a historic and experienced choice to lead an agency in desperate need of reform,” Castro said in a tweet. “As an immigrant and a creator of the DACA program, he’s well suited to undo Trump’s damage and build a more compassionate and common sense immigration agenda.”
Biden is set to officially announce his picks Tuesday.