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Joe Biden's picks for his Cabinet and top jobs: What to know

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin poses for photographers as

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin poses for photographers as he arrives at NATO headquarters in Brussels on April 14. Credit: Pool / Kenzo Tribouillard via AP

President Joe Biden's team for his Cabinet and more top posts features Obama administration veterans, the first woman in the role of Treasury secretary, the first Native American Cabinet member — and a sharp change from the Trump administration's "America First" policies that disparaged international alliances.

While nominees need to be confirmed by the Senate, appointees like the chief of staff do not. Vice President Kamala Harris is a member of Biden's Cabinet.

Biden has pledged to build the most diverse government in modern history. Here's what to know about the team he has rolled out.

He is still without a confirmed Office of Management and Budget director after Neera Tanden's withdrawal. Shalanda Young, who was confirmed as deputy director, is the acting budget leader.

CHIEF OF STAFF (Appointed)

Biden named Ron Klain, a longtime adviser who was his first chief of staff when he was vice president. He has decades of Washington experience, including serving as the Ebola response coordinator in 2014. He also had a central role in the Obama administration's financial crisis response.


Biden tabbed Antony Blinken for this most prestigious of posts. The Senate confirmed him in a 78-22 vote Jan. 26. Blinken was VP Biden's national security adviser and was deputy secretary of state from 2015-2017, when he helped implement the Obama administration's pivot to Asia. Blinkenpledged to be a leading force in the new administration's bid to reframe the U.S.' relationship with the rest of the world after four years in which President Donald Trump questioned longtime alliances.


Merrick Garland, the appeals court judge who was denied a hearing by the Mitch McConnell-led Senate when he was nominated for the Supreme Court in 2016, was confirmed as attorney general March 10 with a strong bipartisan Senate vote, 70-30. "More than anything, we need to restore the honor, the integrity, the independence of the Department of Justice that's been so badly damaged," Biden has said. Garland inherited a Justice Department that was politicized under President Trump and Attorney General William Barr. Appearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee Feb. 22, Garland vowed to prioritize combating extremist violence with an initial focus on the Capitol insurrection. He emphasized that he had never spoken to Biden about the criminal tax investigation into his son, Hunter. And, Garland said, "I have grown pretty immune to any kind of pressure, other than the pressure to do what I think is the right thing, given the facts and the law. That is what I intend to do as the attorney general."


Lloyd Austin was confirmed by the Senate Jan. 22 in a 93-2 vote, becoming the country's first Black secretary of defense. "I'm especially proud to be the first African American to hold the position. Let's get to work," Austin said on Twitter. Biden's choice here was controversial because Austin is a recently retired general who needed a waiver from Congress to run the Defense Department. He retired from the Army in 2016, but Biden argued in The Atlantic that Austin knows that a Pentagon chief's duties are different from those of a military officer. He wrote that Austin is aware that "the civil-military dynamic has been under great stress these past four years," and actually said Austin would work to put the civil-military balance "back on track." Austin said he has spent nearly his entire life committed to the principle of civilian control over the military. He spent 41 years in the Army and is widely admired for his military service, which included leading Central Command.


Janet Yellen is the first woman to serve as Treasury secretary, after she was the first to lead the Federal Reserve from 2014 to 2018. She was confirmed by the Senate 84-15 Jan. 25, and sworn in the next day by the nation's first female vice president, Harris. Yellen said at a confirmation hearing Jan. 19 that the administration would focus on winning quick passage of its $1.9 trillion pandemic relief plan, rejecting Republican arguments that it's too big because of budget deficits. "Without further action, we risk a longer, more painful recession now — and long-term scarring of the economy later," Yellen said.


California Attorney General Xavier Becerra was confirmed for this Cabinet post in a 50-49 vote March 18, filling a key position in the Biden administration's coronavirus response. He told senators Feb. 23 that confronting the pandemic would be his first priority if confirmed. The Department of Health and Human Services includes the CDC, FDA and NIH. Becerra is the first Latino to lead the department. Leading Republicans dismissed him as unfit. Becerra said he helped pass the Affordable Care Act in the House and defended it as California's AG. He sued the Trump administration nine times alone on Trump's final full day in office.


As Dr. Anthony Fauci serves another president, the nation's top infectious disease expert remains a public face of the government's coronavirus response and director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, a job he has had since 1984.

CDC DIRECTOR (Appointed)

Dr. Rochelle Walensky was sworn in as director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Jan. 20 facing a mammoth task: reasserting an agency that was cast aside by the Trump administration during the pandemic — with the crisis is in its deadliest phase yet, and the vaccination rollout wracked by confusion and delays. While much has changed, the country's death toll has kept climbing, above 578,000. Walensky, an infectious-diseases specialist, came to the job from Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital. She said one top priority would be to improve the CDC's communications with the public to rebuild trust.


John Kerry is Biden's special presidential envoy for climate. The former secretary of state was one of the leading architects of the 2015 Paris climate agreement, which the Trump administration left. But on his first day in office Biden signed an executive order rejoining the global deal, and the U.S. officially returned to the climate accord Feb. 19. Kerry is the first member of the National Security Council to focus exclusively on climate change. Kerry, who ran unsuccessfully for president as the Democratic nominee in 2004, is one of the big names behind the climate mobilization coalition World War Zero.


Gina McCarthy is the first person in this role as she leads the new White House Office of Domestic Climate Policy. She was the Environmental Protection Agency administrator in President Barack Obama's second term, and most recently the president and CEO of the Natural Resources Defense Council. As 2020 ended she wrote on its site, "It's time to set the country on track for 100 percent carbon-free electricity by 2035 and a carbon-neutral economy by 2050."


Michael Regan, who was North Carolina's environmental head since 2017, was confirmed by the Senate 66-34 for his new position March 10. He is the first Black man to lead the EPA. He will help lead Biden's efforts to address climate change and advocate for environmental justice, two of the administration's top priorities. In North Carolina, Regan is known for pursuing cleanups of industrial toxins and helping low-income and minority communities significantly affected by pollution.


Jake Sullivan, 44, is "the youngest national security adviser in more than a half century," according to The New York Times. He also was VP Biden's national security adviser, and an adviser to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

CIA DIRECTOR (Confirmed)

Retired diplomat William Burns, a former deputy secretary of state and former ambassador to Russia and Jordan, was confirmed by the Senate without opposition on a voice vote March 18, soon after Texas Sen. Ted Cruz lifted his hold on the nomination. While the Central Intelligence Agency's new leader was not an American intelligence officer, he worked with many abroad. "I developed enormous respect for my colleagues in the CIA," Burns said in an online video statement with Biden. Burns told senators Feb. 24 that "politics must stop where intelligence work begins." He said of Biden, "He said he wants the agency to give it to him straight and I pledged to do just that and to defend those who do the same." Burns wrote some of the most insightful State Department cables that were published by WikiLeaks in 2010 and is widely respected throughout the national security community. He was president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.


Avril Haines, a former CIA deputy director, is the first woman DNI, which is a relatively new part of the federal bureaucracy. She was confirmed Jan. 20 in a 84-10 Senate vote. Haines was deputy national security adviser under Obama.


Alejandro Mayorkas, who was deputy secretary of homeland security and director of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services in the Obama administration, was confirmed as homeland security secretary in a 56-43 Senate vote Feb. 2. His nomination was stalled by Republicans who wanted to question him further on Biden's plans for immigration policy. Mayorkas also faced questions over his management of an investor visa program in the Obama administration. Mayorkas was born in Cuba and is the first Latino and first immigrant to lead the Department of Homeland Security. "When I was very young, the United States provided my family and me a place of refuge," he tweeted in November, saying that he would "oversee the protection of all Americans and those who flee persecution in search of a better life for themselves and their loved ones."


Former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm was confirmed as energy secretary in a 64-35 Senate vote Feb. 25. She will be a key Cabinet member trying to fulfill Biden's commitment for a green economy as the United States fights to slow climate change. She thanked the Senate on Twitter and said, "I'm obsessed with creating good-paying clean energy jobs in all corners of America in service of addressing our climate crisis. I'm impatient for results. Now let's get to work!" Granholm was Michigan's first female governor from 2003 to 2010 and the first woman to serve as the state's attorney general before that. You may not know that she immigrated from Canada at age 4.


Linda Thomas-Greenfield was confirmed by the Senate 78-20 on Feb. 23. Biden's selection of the low-key, veteran diplomat reflected his intent to return to a more traditional role at the UN as well as offer an olive branch to a beleaguered diplomatic corps. Thomas-Greenfield spent 35 years at the State Department, serving as ambassador to Liberia, director general of the foreign service and the top diplomat for Africa, before being forced out early in the Trump administration. She called China "a strategic adversary" that threatens the world at her Jan. 27 confirmation hearing — and said she regretted a 2019 speech that praised China's initiatives in Africa but did not mention China's human rights abuses. California Rep. Karen Bass said, "This confirmation sends a message that the United States is back and that our foreign service is back."


Samantha Power was confirmed April 28 to run the U.S. Agency for International Development, which oversees American foreign humanitarian and development aid. The Senate's vote was 68-26. Biden said previously he is elevating the position to the National Security Council within the White House, a signal that he will prioritize outreach to other nations. Power was the country's UN ambassador during Obama's second term. She was born in Britain to Irish parents, raised in Ireland and won a Pulitzer Prize in 2003 for her book "A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide." Biden called her "a world-renowned voice of conscience and moral clarity."


New Mexico Rep. Deb Haaland was confirmed by the Senate, 51-40, in a historic vote March 15. Haaland, who is a member of the Pueblo of Laguna, is the first Native American to lead the Interior Department, which oversees the nation's tribes, and the first in the Cabinet, period. She said her confirmation shows that tribal members are visible and being taken seriously. "And no, it should not have taken more than 200 years for a Native person to take the helm at Interior, or even be a Cabinet secretary for that matter," she said. Haaland gave an emotional farewell address to the House March 16, reflecting on her opportunity there to act as a role model to "little girls everywhere." On Feb. 23 she faced sharp questions from Republicans over what several called her radical ideas, and said she is committed to striking "the right balance" as the department manages oil drilling and other energy development while seeking to conserve public lands and address climate change. Haaland pledged to lead the Interior Department with honor and integrity and said she will be "a fierce advocate for our public lands."


Last year Pete Buttigieg was a Democratic presidential rival to Biden; this year he's in his Cabinet. Buttigieg became the first openly gay person confirmed to a Cabinet post in a 86-13 vote on Feb. 2. Biden has called him "a new voice with new ideas determined to move past old politics." At 39, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, is half the president's age.


Connecticut Commissioner of Education Miguel Cardona was confirmed as the U.S. education secretary in a 64-33 Senate vote on March 1. Biden's selection of Cardona delivered on his promise to nominate someone with experience working in public education, and the confirmation fulfilled his goal of installing an education chief who stands in sharp contrast to Trump's Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. Cardona is a product of public schools, starting when he entered kindergarten unable to speak English. Cardona said his "bilingual and bicultural" background gives him perspective on how to address the nation's education inequalities. "We must continue to reopen America's schools for in-person learning as quickly and as safely as possible," Cardona said during a Connecticut school visit with first lady Jill Biden March 3. Cardona said his top priority would be President Biden's directive that teachers and school staff be vaccinated quickly.


Neera Tanden withdrew her nomination March 2 after opposition from key Democratic and Republican senators for her controversial tweets, most notably Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin. "Unfortunately, it now seems clear that there is no path forward to gain confirmation, and I do not want continued consideration of my nomination to be a distraction from your other priorities," Tanden wrote in a letter to Biden. The president pledged to find her another role in his administration. Tanden apologized Feb. 9 for spending years attacking top Republicans on social media as she tried to convince senators she would leave partisan politics behind if confirmed. Tanden admitted to spending "many months" removing past Twitter posts, saying, "I deleted tweets because I regretted them." Tanden is president and CEO of the Democratic-leaning Center for American Progress and a former adviser to Hillary Clinton.


Rep. Marcia Fudge, a former chair of the Congressional Black Caucus who was in her seventh term representing a majority Black district that includes parts of Cleveland and Akron, was confirmed for her new role March 10 in a 66-34 Senate vote. Shortly afterward, she took the last vote of her House career in support of the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill, including billions in housing assistance to low-income households. On Twitter, Fudge said "It's the honor of my life" to serve as HUD secretary. Her career's driving mission "has been to reduce poverty and address inequality," the Biden transition said previously. Fudge told senators Jan. 28 that she would take "extraordinary actions" to prevent people from losing their homes due to the pandemic.


For this role Biden turned to Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, choosing a former union worker who shares Biden's Irish American background and working-class roots. Walsh was confirmed by the Senate 68-29 on March 22. He was Boston's mayor since 2014. Fun fact: When he took the oath of office in 2018 for his second term, Biden presided over the inauguration. Walsh is a former president of Laborers Local 223 and led the Boston Building Trades, a union umbrella organization.


Gina Raimondo, a second-term Rhode Island governor, former state treasurer and former venture capitalist, was confirmed 84-15 on March 2. Raimondo had said that if confirmed she would take much of what she learned improving Rhode Island's economy and apply it at the federal level. She said she never pictured herself in Washington but was "deeply honored" by her nomination and "felt that I had to say yes." In Jan. 26 testimony, she focused on the need to help those parts of the economy and the workers hit hardest by the pandemic.


Denis McDonough held various roles in the Obama administration, including White House chief of staff and deputy national security adviser. "I have given Denis a clear mission: fight like hell — fight like hell — for veterans and their families," Biden said. McDonough was confirmed 87-7 on Feb. 8.


You could call the Trump administration an interregnum for Tom Vilsack at the Agriculture Department, as he was Obama's agriculture secretary all eight years. "He wasn't anxious to come back, he wasn't looking for this job, but I was persistent and I asked him to serve again in this role because he knows the USDA inside and out, he knows the government inside and out," Biden said of the former Iowa governor, who is 70. "We need that experience now." Vilsack was confirmed in a 92-7 Senate vote Feb. 23. In his opening remarks to a Senate committee Feb. 2, Vilsack sought to dispel concerns that he would be coming to the job with antiquated ideas. "I realize that I am back again. But I also realize that this is a fundamentally different time," he said, referencing a need to rebuild parts of the country's agricultural infrastructure in the wake of the pandemic.


Susan Rice is known for foreign policy, but she has a different focus in the Biden administration leading its Domestic Policy Council. In choosing Rice for this role, advisers said Biden was signaling the importance of domestic policy in his early agenda. She was Obama's national security adviser and UN ambassador, and was a candidate for Biden's VP.

With Bloomberg

An update of this story reflected that Jake Sullivan turned 44 before becoming national security adviser.

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