Joe Biden is set to start naming his cabinet picks within days. But the president-elect faces unique pressures to satisfy the various coalitions who put him in the White House: Progressive, centrist, African American, unions, sunbelt, rustbelt and Georgia Democrats could all claim a place in his cabinet – which is set to be the most diverse in history. And he may have to get them confirmed by a Republican Senate.
Here are the front runners – and some of the wildcards – for the most powerful jobs in America:
THE DEMOCRATIC STARS PARTY WANTS BIDEN TO PUT IN BIG JOBS
STACEY ABRAMS FOR SCOTUS?
Abrams turned her failed Georgia gubernatorial campaign into a movement to mobilize disenfranchised voters and to registers more African Americans. Her efforts paid off in Georgia, where Joe Biden has taken the lead over President Donald Trump. Should Georgia go blue, Biden would be the first Democrat to carry it since 1992. And credit for that is going to Abrams, who is being congratulated by everyone from members of Congress to celebrities. Abrams was mentioned as a possible running mate but Biden ultimately went with Kamala Harris amid questions about Abrams’ lack of national experience. Biden has said he will have African American women in his Cabinet – and has said he would appoint one to the Supreme Court. How will he reward Abrams and where would be a place for her remains a question mark.
COULD BERNIE BE IN THE CABINET?
The liberal senator from Vermont didn’t give Joe Biden the kind of problems in the 2020 Democratic primary that he gave Hillary Clinton in the 2016 contest. When the race was all but over, Sanders stepped aside, endorsed Biden and called on liberals to help defeat Donald Trump. He helped keep the left in Biden’s corner when progressives were wary of Biden’s moderate record. While he has been mentioned as a possibility for Labor Secretary, what role he plays in the Biden administration – or if he stays in the Senate – remains to be seen.
HOW DO YOU SOLVE A PROBLEM LIKE ALEXANDRIA?
The New York congresswoman is a liberal rock star and national figure on the Democratic stage. She helped craft Biden’s climate policy, bridging his more moderate views with the demands of liberals. Biden has talked about creating a Cabinet- or senior adviser–level job focused entirely on climate change, Ocasio-Cortez could be a prominent contender for such a job.
HELL YES, HE’LL GIVE BETO SOMETHING
O’Rourke came a national star in his failed 2018 Senate bid, when he came within two points of knocking off conservative Senator Ted Cruz in Texas. He tried to translate that into a Democratic presidential campaign but quickly crashed and burned. He also became a prominent advocate for stricter gun laws after a shooting at a WalMart in his home town of El Paso – a position Trump tried to use against Biden in the general election. ‘Hell, yes, we’re going to take your AR-15, your AK-47, and we’re not going to allow it to be used against your fellow Americans anymore,’ he said during the September 2019 Democratic primary debate. O’Rourke supported Biden and campaigned for him heavily in Texas in an attempt to turn Texas blue. Biden lost the state by six points but it is trending blue. Will Beto try to run for governor of the state or join a Biden administration?
MAYOR PETE, SECRETARY PETE, AMBASSADOR PETE?
Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, was one of the first top contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination to endorse Joe Biden when he dropped out of the primary. He is expected to have a prominent role in the Biden administration. He was the first openly gay person to launch a major presidential campaign. He and his husband Chasten became national stars when Buttigieg ran for president. A graduate of Harvard and Oxford who is fluent in several languages, the Army veteran who served in Afghanistan, also has been mentioned as a possible ambassador to the United Nations.
COULD ELIZABETH WARREN RUN THE FINANCES?
Elizabeth Warren’s name has been floated as Treasury Secretary. The Massachusetts senator is one of the biggest liberals in the Democratic Party, which could hurt her in a GOP-led chamber, but there is a Senate tradition of the courtesy of a quick confirmations for nominees within its ranks. She is also avowedly not a socialist but a capitalist – saying that the current system is not capitalism at all. Ironically Warren ran for the Senate after then-President Barack Obama declined to name her as the head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau – in part out of worries she would not be able to get confirmed in the Senate. But the Massachusetts governor is a Republican – so he would have to agree to replace her with a Democrat for a move to be possible.
THE BIDEN INNER CIRCLE
COMEBACK FOR JOHN KERRY
A former Democratic presidential candidate, a former secretary of state, and a former senator from Massachusetts – Kerry is a party elder and longtime friend of Biden. He also advised him on climate change, a strong cause for Kerry. He’s also been mentioned for a climate change czar should Biden create such a position.
RISING STAR CEDRIC RICHMOND COULD BE FIRST BLACK CHIEF OF STAFF
The Democratic congressman from Louisiana helped Biden with African American voters and is a prominent adviser to the president-elect. He’s been mentioned for a top role in the administration, including becoming the first black chief of staff. But longtime Biden adviser Ron Klain is also in contention for that role. If Richmond doesn’t get chief of staff he’s expected to have some kind of top-level job in the Biden White House.
DELAWARE SENATOR TO BE TOP DIPLOMAT?
Chris Coons of Delaware is a close personal friend of Joe Biden’s, he holds Biden seat in the Senate. He did volunteer relief work in Africa before attending Yale Law School. He would likely be easily confirmed by the Senate. ‘If asked, I’d be honored to serve,’ Coons told ABC’s ‘This Week’ on Sunday. ‘Joe is someone who’s long been a leader in foreign policy. I’ve served on the Foreign Relations Committee a decade, and there’s a lot of hard work to do to re-engage with the world and restore our place of leadership on the world stage.’
LA’S MAYOR TO RUN TRANSPORT?
Eric Garcetti, the Los Angeles Mayor is a longtime Biden loyalist, he is term-limited out of job in March 2022. In 2016, he declined to endorse Hillary Clinton until he had reassurance that Biden wasn’t running.
INSIDER FRIEND AS NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR?
Tony Blinken: A former deputy secretary of state and deputy national security advisor, Blinken is close to Biden and seen as a contender for the State Department or as National Security Advisor. He is a veteran of the Obama administration’s efforts to negotiate over Iran’s nuclear ambitions and its ISIS fight. He has been through a Senate confirmation fight before when he became deputy secretary of state. In 2017, Blinken co-founded WestExec Advisors, a political strategy advising firm, with Michèle Flournoy, who has been mentioned as a top contender for Pentagon chief.
AND WHO ELSE MIGHT GET WHAT KEY ROLE
Susan Rice: Also mentioned as a potential running mate for Joe Biden, Rice served as U.N. ambassador and national security adviser to President Obama. Obama considered appointing her to the top job at Foggy Bottom after Hillary Clinton left the State Department. The same issue that prevented her appointment then could haunt her now: Republican anger at her following a controversy related to the 2012 attack on a U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi.
Michele Flournoy: Flournoy, the favorite for the job, was Assistant Secretary of Defense for Strategy under President Clinton and the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy under President Obama. A graduate of Harvard and Oxford, in 2007, Flournoy co-founded the Center for a New American Security, a for-profit Washington, D.C.-based think tank that specializes in U.S. national security issues. Her name was also mentioned for the same job if Hillary Clinton had won. If confirmed, she would be the first female defense secretary.
Democratic Sen. Tammy Duckworth of Illinois: Mentioned as a possible running mate for Joe Biden, Duckworth lost both of her legs and some mobility in her right arm in 2004, when she was an Army helicopter pilot in Iraq and her chopper was hit by a rocket. She was awarded the Purple Heart. She served two terms in the House before she was elected to the Senate, where she first senator to give birth while in office and Senate rules were changed to allow her to bring her baby daughter to the Senate floor.
Lael Brainard: A governor for the federal reserve, she is non controversial and could be easily confirmed in a Republican-led Senate. She served as Under Secretary of the Treasury for International Affairs in the Obama administration and has been member of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System since 2014. She would be the first woman to hold the job if appointed and confirmed.
Mellody Hobson: She is the president and co-CEO of Ariel Investments and is the former chairwoman of DreamWorks Animation. In 2017, she became the first African-American woman to head The Economic Club of Chicago. A graduate of Princeton, she is married to Star Wars creator George Lucas.
Raphael Bostic: Bostic, the president of the Atlanta Federal Reserve Bank, would be the first black person and the first openly gay person to lead the department.
Democratic Sen. Doug Jones of Alabama: Jones lost to Republican Tommy Tuberville on election night, meaning he’ll need a job come January. The former U.S. attorney in Alabama has a strong civil rights record with the prosecutions of two members of the Ku Klux Klan involved in the 1963 bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham nearly 40 years later. He’s also a personal friend of Joe Biden’s and worked on Biden’s first presidential campaign in 1988. He would not make Biden’s Cabinet more diverse but he would be easily confirmed by the Senate.
Andrew Cuomo: The governor of New York became a national figure of trust when he led his state through the COVID pandemic. He serve as Housing and Urban Development secretary during Bill Clinton’s administration.
Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez: He served as assistant attorney general for civil rights in the Obama administration before Obama named him as Labor secretary. Not a single Republican senator voted for his confirmation for the Labor Department.
Sally Yates: The former deputy attorney general in the Obama administration became a liberal cause celeb when President Donald Trump fired her in the early days of his presidency for refusing to defend his executive order barring entry to people several Muslim countries. Senate Republicans could use that to object to her confirmation.
Alejandro Mayorkas: He was the Department of Homeland Security’s deputy secretary during the Obama administration and would be its first Latino secretary if confirmed. He also headed up the implementation of President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program as director of United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. Not a single Republican senator voted to confirm him deputy DHS secretary in 2013 because of his role in that program.
Xavier Becerra: The attorney general of California has been named as a contender for this job, to head the Justice Department and as a person Gov. Gavin Newsom could appoint to fill Kamala Harris’ Senate seat.
HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES
Michelle Lujan Grisham: The New Mexico governor ran the state’s health agency before serving in the House of Representatives. She is also a co-chair of the Biden’s transition team. And she commissioned a study on implementing a public option at the state level, which matches Biden push for one on a federal level.
Vivek Murthy: The former Surgeon General in Obama’s administration, he has been part of the team advising Biden on COVID during the campaign. Murthy, who founded the nonprofit Doctors for America in 2008, was the first surgeon general of Indian descent. A graduate of Harvard University and Yale Medical School, Republicans could object to his past comments on gun violence, which he called a threat to public health.
Lily Eskelsen Garcia: An elementary school teacher and the immediate past president of the NEA, she is favored for the job given Biden’s pledge to put a public school teacher in the post. She is a former Utah ‘teacher of the year’ and got her start in schools as a lunch lady in the cafeteria.
Randi Weingarten: The head of the American Federation of Teachers, she was one of the many union leaders who supported Biden. She got her start in schools teaching history in a New York public high school. Her mother was a teacher too.
Julie Su: Labor is the Cabinet position expected to go to a liberal and Su, the Secretary for the California Labor and Workforce Development Agency, tops the list of contenders. She is a nationally recognized expert on workers’ rights and civil rights. A graduate of Stanford University and Harvard Law School. she speaks Mandarin and Spanish.
Meg Whitman: The job is seen as a place for Biden to appoint a Republican and Whitman, the CEO of Quibi, which is shutting down, and former CEO of eBay, could be the answer. She ran for governor of California in 2010, winning the GOP primary but losing the general to Democrat Jerry Brown.
Terry McAuliffe: The former governor of Virginia, McAuliffe is a former banker, investor, and chairman of the Democratic National Committee, who is close to the Clintons.
Ernest Moniz: Moniz is a nuclear physicist who served as President Obama’s Energy secretary. He was also an informal adviser to the Biden campaign on energy issues. He was unanimously confirmed by the Senate for energy secretary in 2013.
Heidi Heitkamp: The North Dakota Democrat lost her Senate seat in 2018 is a strong moderate. She has broken with Democrats on controversial issues, including supporting the Keystone XL oil pipeline.
Tom Udall: The Democratic senator from New Mexico is not seeking re-election but wants to remain in public life. The Interior Department, which manages more than half a billion acres of federal land, is an ideal place for him. His father Stewart led Interior for eight years under the Kennedy and Johnson administrations.
Deb Haaland: The Democratic congresswoman from New Mexico would be the first Native American to serve in a presidential cabinet if appointed to the job. Her backers are pushing her hard for the position. She was one of the first of two Native American women elected to Congress. Haaland is a member of the Laguna Pueblo people.
HOUSING AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT
Keisha Lance Bottoms: The mayor of Atlanta came to national attention during the Black Lives Matters protests when she led her city through the riots. A prominent Biden supporter, she helped deliver the vote for him in Atlanta.
Alvin Brown: Brown worked at the agency under President Bill Clinton and is the former mayor of Jacksonville, Fla.
Sources: Politico, CNN, New York Magazine, The Washington Post, The New York Times