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Long IslandColumnistsDan Janison

New adventures for the old Obama-Biden team

Susan Rice in February. President-elect Joe Biden is

Susan Rice in February. President-elect Joe Biden is naming the Obama administration alum as director of White House Domestic Policy Council. Credit: AP/Mark Humphrey

Looking past the bad blood of the Donald Trump years, President-elect Joe Biden plans to transfuse some of the old blood of the Barack Obama years, Biden's Cabinet picks show.

The former vice president reportedly tapped Obama’s former national security adviser Susan Rice to run the White House Domestic Policy Council. Biden's nominee for secretary of state, Anthony Blinken, once a top aide to Biden in the Senate, was an Obama official. Neera Tanden, Biden's pick for budget director, was a political operative for former Obama Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Several nominees' partisan pedigrees are as clear as their credentials and experience. Before Team Biden's flaws and foibles can be judged, however, the Trump crew is adding controversy to its scarred record.

This week, Moncef Slaoui, chief scientist of the Trump administration’s Operation Warp Speed, couldn't explain Trump’s new executive order to prioritize shipment of the coronavirus vaccine to Americans over other countries.

"We have plans," Slaoui said. "We feel that we can deliver the vaccines as needed. So I don’t know exactly what this order is about." Several of Trump's executive orders have been news releases with no real impact as the coronavirus rages nationwide.

On Thursday, Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-Ga.), head of the House Subcommittee on Coronavirus, charged that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director, Dr. Robert Redfield, ordered the deletion of an email that would show political interference in COVID-19 guidance. Clyburn said the email was considered damaging to Trump. Trump officials denied the thrust of it.

Friction continues over the current administration's handling of billions of dollars in virus aid. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin drew fire from a bipartisan congressional panel over his management of hundreds of billions of dollars in stimulus funds. One trucking company with White House connections reportedly got a $700 million loan.

An inspector general's report, meanwhile, found that Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie and his aides openly questioned the credibility of a House aide who reported a sexual assault at an agency hospital in Washington, D.C., ascribing political motives to her claim, The Washington Post reported.

Trump follies aside, a trickle of worries has begun regarding the team of loyalists Biden is bringing in to change the course of the executive branch.

The president-elect selected for defense secretary retired Gen. Lloyd Austin, but several lawmakers oppose confirming a recent uniformed military officer for the top civilian post at the Pentagon. California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, tapped as Biden's Health and Human Services secretary, filed numerous lawsuits against the Trump administration, which will make him a lightning rod for Republicans on Capitol Hill.

Progressives who backed Biden as the only way to oust Trump are showing irritation here and there. Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) told the Financial Times this week: "The progressives aren’t objecting, but they’re also not jumping up and down saying ‘yay.’ "

One consideration for Biden is whether appointees will prove acceptable to Republicans who are likely as not to keep the Senate majority and would get to confirm or reject major nominations. Those tensions are expected to take shape as confirmations get underway.

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