Joe Biden has an extensive selection of women to pick from, thanks to his VP vettings. Here’s who could make it into his Cabinet.
- Joe Biden promised the country its first female VP, and he delivered. Women are now watching to see if he’ll also fulfill a vow to build a Cabinet that looks like the rest of the country.
- The president-elect already has a wide selection to pick from: the women his team vetted for potential running mates this summer.
- Democrats close to Biden’s team say he is looking to make history on key appointments by placing women and people of color into positions only men held before.
- “Hallelujah. Amen,” said Kate Coyne-McCoy, a Democratic political consultant. “It’s a brilliant relief from a miserable, rotten, four years of old white guys at the helm.”
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
President-elect Joe Biden has an extensive selection of women to consider for his administration — one that he’s vowed will look like all of America.
It includes a shortlist of senators and notable former government officials that Biden’s team vetted over the summer during an intense search for his vice-presidential running mate.
Democrats close to Biden’s team say he is looking to make history on key appointments — placing women and people of color into positions that have typically been occupied by white men. He’s already delivered on his promise to pick the first woman as vice president.
The Pentagon and the Treasury Department are two likely targets for more history-making appointments.
Women who worked in senior roles in his campaign, including deputy campaign manager Kate Bedingfield, senior advisor Symone Sanders, and policy director Stef Feldman, are likely in contention for posts in the incoming administration, according to a Democratic strategist close to the Biden team.
So are former National Security Advisor Susan Rice, former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates, and Lael Brainard who is a member of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors. Sens. Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, as well as New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, are also in the mix, the strategist told Insider.
“I think he [Biden] has an extraordinary opportunity to set up a cabinet that looks more like America than we’ve certainly seen in this administration,” Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin told Insider on Thursday.
Baldwin was among those considered for a Biden running mate this summer before he picked now Vice President-elect Kamala Harris.
The sheer volume of experienced women who Biden could tap to fill key posts in his Cabinet and White House is an exciting prospect for advocates who for years have demanded more representation in all aspects of government.
“Hallelujah. Amen,” said Kate Coyne-McCoy, a Democratic political consultant who has pushed to get more women and more minorities into public office. “It’s a brilliant relief from a miserable, rotten, four years of old white guys at the helm.”
Coyne-McCoy was part of Rep. Val Demings’ 2020 reelection campaign. Demings, a Florida Democrat who recently won reelection, was also among the women Biden’s team considered for vice president.
Not ‘binders full of women’
As Biden and his transition team decide who will fill the most important roles in his administration, the names of the women he vetted for vice president are rising to the top. And some have been vetted multiple times.
Rice, Duckworth, and Harris were all floated for possible top administration jobs by the Obama transition team in October 2008, according to hacked Democratic emails later released by WikiLeaks.
“Everyone who is vetted for the VP process is probably on the shortlist to start because part of that process includes extensive vetting,” said another Democratic strategist. “If you’re vetted for VP and you know you’re cleared and they don’t have any issues then you’re a step ahead of everyone else.”
But don’t expect Biden to describe the women he’s vetting the way then-Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney did during the 2012 presidential campaign. The Democrats learned lessons from the public whacking Romney endured after referring to the women he was thinking of appointing as “binders full of women.” Or from the embarrassing, leaked John Podesta emails that revealed transition lists categorized as “Women” and “Diversity.” Podesta led Obama’s 2008 transition team and chaired Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign.
Democratic strategists say the shortlist of women can’t be reduced to mere binders or spreadsheets.
“No, that is not happening,” Coyne-McCoy, who founded KCM Consulting, said. “These people, these folks have real relationships and real knowledge about talented women that are everywhere. I mean. Come on. That is so Mitt Romney.”
Even as the Biden campaign and his transition team have been mulling names in anticipation of his move into the White House on January 20, they may have to rethink their top choices now that Democrats’ only remaining pathway to controlling the Senate hinges on two difficult runoff races in Georgia.
Rice’s name, for instance, has come up as a potential secretary of State, one of the most prestigious appointments out there. Rice was on Biden’s vice presidential shortlist, which means the vetting is all but complete.
But her appointment would require Senate confirmation, which could become tricky.
Here’s why: Republicans clashed with Rice numerous times over the Obama administration’s response to the 2012 Benghazi attack. They have certainly not forgotten. And if Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell retains his role in the upper chamber — a pair of Senate runoffs in Georgia will likely determine that — he could block her confirmation.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a Massachusetts progressive who became a top fundraiser and surrogate for Biden after ending her own presidential bid, may also be sidelined for a Cabinet appointment even if she wanted one. If appointed, her replacement would be chosen by Massachusetts Republican Gov. Charlie Baker, and likely cost Democrats a seat in the Senate where they are already barely hanging on. Warren’s name has been suggested for both the Department of Education and Treasury Department top jobs.
Should Democrats fail to gain a majority in the Senate, the Biden team may opt for more centrist candidates, such as Pete Buttigieg, the former Democratic presidential candidate and former mayor of South Bend, Indiana.
“I’m sure there would be political calculations for whoever’s making that decision, and in some cases, that may not work,” Republican Sen. Shelley Moore Capito told Insider at the Capitol on Thursday.
But Capito, a senator from West Virginia, sounded optimistic about the confirmation chances of the many women senators who may be in the running for Biden Cabinet posts.
“I think that having personal relationships with the people that are going to be confirming you is probably very helpful,” Capito said. “And I think that the depth of knowledge and the legislative process, I think this is maybe a calculation that [Biden] is making because he knows the Senate process so well.”
The women already in the Senate will have to make careful calculations if picked to work in Biden’s administration. There are many considerations with personal and professional ramifications: They have to mull whether to give up a comfortably blue Senate seat they could potentially hold for decades or whether taking an administration job would give a Republican governor the chance to replace them with a GOP senator.
Duckworth, a US Army veteran who lost both of her legs after the helicopter she was piloting was attacked in Iraq, is also in the mix as a potential head of the Department of Veterans Affairs.
It’s a difficult and unglamorous post, one that has often gone to military officials or those in the private sector.
One Democratic strategist said Duckworth would only leave the Senate for a position such as Secretary of Defense. And several Democrats have said Michele Flournoy, who held high ranking positions in the Defense Department during the Obama and Clinton administrations, has a great shot at that position.
Three Democratic strategists, meanwhile, told Insider Duckworth is not interested in leaving her Senate seat.
California Congresswoman Karen Bass — who was also on Biden’s vice presidential shortlist — is reportedly in play for several posts, including at the helms of the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the US Agency for International Development, and as UN ambassador.
Others who were under consideration for VP include Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance-Bottoms and voting rights activist Stacey Abrams, who unsuccessfully ran for governor in Georgia in 2018 — and may consider running again.
“I can’t imagine that much would happen prior to the Georgia elections because … the determination of the balance of power in the Senate lies ahead of us,” Baldwin said. “But that said, I’m just generally very excited about the strength and depth of the next president’s cabinet.”
Biden has managed to build himself a reputation as a champion for women. In August, a campaign spokeswoman told Insider that his administration “would look like the country they serve.”
The campaign also provided Insider with a list of 23 women in leadership roles or working as advisors to the Biden campaign at the time. That included senior advisors Anita Dunn and Julie Rodriguez, as well as campaign manager Jen O’Malley Dillon.
“For Joe Biden, representation matters and not just on paper,” spokeswoman Rosemary Boeglin told Insider at the time. “Making policy that speaks to Americans’ everyday struggles demands that folks writing policy have experienced those struggles themselves. And he’s going to carry this commitment to the White House, where his administration will look like the country they serve.”
When asked about whether Biden is seeking to widen the diversity within his administration, Biden’s transition team on Friday said his administration “will prioritize the following core values: diversity of ideology and background; talent to address society’s most complex challenges; integrity and the highest ethical standards to serve the American people and not special interests; and transparency to garner trust at every stage.”
Women across the country — even some Republicans — are waiting and watching to what Biden’s Cabinet and White House looks like.
“I am a strong proponent of women in the Cabinet, and I would certainly endorse that,” Sen. Lisa Murkowski, a Republican from Alaska, told Insider at the Capitol on Thursday.
“When we’re talking about more women, more women …” Murkowski added, giving a thumbs-up.
(the headline, this story has not been published by Important India News staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)