A Biden administration entails a Biden cabinet, and his roster of nominations are both promising in representation and qualification. While some have been criticized as overly centrist and non-ideological, his choices demonstrate a deep commitment to holistic advising and an attentive policy agenda.
In simple terms, the cabinet advises the president. Each cabinet member plays administrative roles within their department and acts as the primary adviser to the president on their area of expertise. Biden’s nomination process is well underway and has already produced numerous promising nominees, but a polarized Senate may very well hinder their confirmation.
Biden’s nominees thus far are a holistic reflection of the United States. In economic background, gender and race, his picks differ vastly from Trump’s cabinet, of which white males are the majority. His choices for the critical Departments of Interior and Treasury embody a commitment to inclusivity. Rep. Deb Haaland (D-N.M.), Biden’s choice for Interior, has served in a number of positions for the Democratic Party and would be the first Indigenous cabinet member. Her unique position as a political insider as well as a member of an underrepresented social community would allow her to address her department’s issues from multiple points of view.
Similarly, Biden’s cabinet makes strides in gender representation. Only 21.1% of Trump’s cabinet is composed of women whereas Biden’s will be about 60% female. Notably, Biden broke years of male tradition by nominating former Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen to lead the Treasury Department. His cabinet reflects the U.S.
Biden’s nominees are also extraordinarily qualified. While President Donald Trump emphasized capitalistic connection and business-oriented agendas more than experience when nominating cabinet-level officials, Biden demonstrated a clear commitment to ability. That contrast becomes immediately obvious when considering their respective secretary of state nominees. Trump offered not one, but two nominees lacking in qualifications: Rex Tillerson and Mike Pompeo. Briefly serving as secretary of state before his firing, Tillerson had no political background; he was previously CEO of ExxonMobil. Trump’s second nominee, Pompeo boasts a more impressive resume but similarly lacks political background and experience in foreign affairs. Before assuming his role as secretary of state, Biden’s choice for secretary of state, by contrast, has direct experience: Antony J. Blinken served on the Clinton administration’s National Security Council, was a Democratic staff director for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and served as deputy Secretary of State during the Obama administration. Clearly, Biden recognizes the importance of qualification, unlike Trump.
As Biden prepares his administration, he has also shown a willingness to reprioritize certain departments as needed. While the core structure of the cabinet remains relatively steady, the landscape of politics does not. Recognizing the need to build a team ready to face the most pressing political issues, Biden has highlighted the departments interacting with environmental and economic policy. His strategic move in nominating former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm, a fierce advocate of clean energy policy, to lead the Energy Department highlights his commitment to restoring our environment. Biden has stacked his cabinet-in-waiting with an inclusive, qualified and dynamic roster of leaders prepared to tackle the most pressing challenges.
Yet as representative and qualified as Biden’s prospective Cabinet may be, he can’t make it a reality without Senate approval. With tight Senate runoffs in Georgia, control of the Senate will be of paramount importance for Biden and his nominees. While Senate approval may be out of our hands, the election of Senate members is not — Democratic candidates John Ossoff and Rev. Raphael Warnock also prioritize progressive goals and an inclusive cabinet — our votes can get them to the Senate floor. While Biden hopes to fill his cabinet with qualified and diverse leaders, he needs not just the Senate’s support, but also that of Georgia voters. Don’t let him down.
Lena Bodenhamer (24C) is from Fort Collins, Colorado.