Secretary of State
ANTONY J. BLINKEN
Confirmed Jan. 26
Blinken is a veteran of the Obama White House and worked as a senior advisor to then-Sen. Joe Biden before that. He and the president have a close relationship, and share a foreign policy philosophy that includes strong ties and cooperation with allies, with U.S. leadership consulting other countries. Blinken spent much of his childhood in Paris, and is an erudite, if low-key, French-speaking diplomat who enjoys ample respect within the State Department and foreign policy establishment. He likes to tell the story of his stepfather — a Holocaust survivor rescued by U.S. troops who liberated Nazis death camps at the end of World War II — as an example of the good America can do.
Secretary of the Treasury
JANET L. YELLEN
Confirmed Jan. 25
Yellen, an expert on labor markets and employment, is the first woman to head the Treasury Department. She’s also the only person to have held all three of the nation’s top economic posts — chair of the Federal Reserve and head of the Council of Economic Advisors in addition to Treasury secretary. In her years heading the Fed (2014-2018), she advocated policies designed to boost employment, arguing that the economy could produce more jobs without risking significant inflation. She also pushed for tougher regulation of large banks. As head of the Council of Economic Advisors in the Clinton White House, she oversaw an influential study on why women are paid less on average than men for comparable work. She has moved between government service and academic positions, mostly at UC Berkeley, where she began teaching in 1980. She served two stints on the Federal Reserve Board in addition to her time as chair. She also served as president of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco. In that post, she was credited with spotting early evidence of the housing bubble and helping to manage the 2008 financial crisis when the bubble burst.
Secretary of Defense
LLOYD J. AUSTIN III
Confirmed Jan. 22
Austin, a former top U.S. commander in the Middle East, is the first Black person in charge of the Pentagon. The Georgia native has said his immediate priority is to expand the military’s role in assisting the federal response to the COVID-19 pandemic. He also faces far-reaching decisions on whether to proceed with further troop drawdowns in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, and on changing U.S. security strategy to focus more on countering China. President Biden chose him despite concerns that putting a recently retired officer in charge of the armed forces could further weaken civilian control of the military. As vice president, Biden came to admire Austin’s publicity-averse style and willingness to carry out White House decisions loyally, even if he disagreed with them.
Confirmed March 10
Garland was a federal appeals court judge when Biden chose him to be the nation’s 86th attorney general. A 1977 graduate of Harvard Law School, Garland worked in private practice before joining the Justice Department in the late 1980s. He was eventually tapped to serve as a top official in the deputy attorney general’s office in the Clinton administration, and in that role oversaw the investigation into the Oklahoma City bombing. Garland left the Justice Department in 1997, when he was confirmed as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, considered by legal scholars to be the country’s second-most-powerful court. President Obama nominated Garland in March 2016 to be a Supreme Court justice, but leaders of the Republican-controlled Senate refused to consider the choice, saying they wanted to leave the seat vacant until after a new president was inaugurated the following year.
After Biden campaigned on his bipartisan relationships in the Senate, White House isn’t doing much outreach to Republicans on confirming his nominees.
Secretary of the Interior
Confirmed March 15
Haaland is the first Native American to lead a Cabinet agency. Elected to the House of Representatives in 2018, she served two years as vice chair of the House Natural Resources Committee, which oversees the Department of the Interior. Haaland is a citizen of the Laguna Pueblo in New Mexico. Her activism dates back years, but she became more prominent after participating in protests against the Dakota Access pipeline in North Dakota. She inherits an agency mired in controversy over Trump administration policies that favored fossil fuel companies and the Biden administration’s moratorium on new oil and gas drilling on federal lands. Like the agency she now leads, her nomination became a proxy for the fight over the future of the country’s climate and energy policies.
Secretary of Agriculture
Confirmed Feb. 23
The former governor of Iowa is a familiar face at the Department of Agriculture: He was Agriculture secretary for both terms of the Obama administration. His appeal to President Biden is obvious: Vilsack is a steady hand who knows farming issues and can bring stability back to the industry, which has been rattled by the pandemic and President Trump’s trade war with China. Vilsack’s moderate political posture is similar to Biden’s, and he was confirmed easily. Progressives are wary of Vilsack, arguing he is too cozy with big farming interests and has not done enough to address racial and economic inequities in the sector. He has vowed to make those concerns a focus of his tenure this time, along with aggressively promoting climate-friendly agricultural practices.
Secretary of Commerce
Confirmed March 2
Raimondo, a business-oriented moderate Democrat, was midway through her second term as Rhode Island’s first female governor when President Biden chose her for his Cabinet. Previously she was general treasurer of the state, where she became best known — and disliked by influential public employee unions — for overhauling the state’s financially troubled public employee pension system and reducing benefits. A venture capitalist early in her career, Raimondo was a graduate of Harvard and Yale Law, and was a Rhodes scholar. In February 2020, during Democrats’ presidential nomination race, she first endorsed the billionaire former New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, saying it was “an easy call.” When Bloomberg dropped out a month later, she endorsed Biden.
Secretary of Labor
Confirmed March 22
Walsh had been mayor of Boston for seven years when President Biden nominated him to head the Labor Department. He hails from the city’s working-class Dorchester neighborhood and is a former union leader in the building trades. A product of Boston’s Democratic political machine, Walsh was a state legislator before being elected mayor in 2013. In a statement on his nomination for Labor secretary, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka called Walsh a staunch union ally who “knows that collective bargaining is essential” to fulfilling Biden’s economic and social justice agenda. Support from Trumka and other labor leaders helped Walsh overcome flashier candidates for the job, including Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Julie Su, California’s labor secretary.
Secretary of Health and Human Services
Confirmed March 18
The former California attorney general was a longtime member of Congress who has focused on healthcare access for most of his career. He is the first Latino to run the Health and Human Services Department. A child of Mexican immigrants who is known as a crusader for immigrant rights, Becerra stands out as one of President Biden’s most progressive Cabinet members. His understated style and eagerness to bore into the most obtuse policy matters were a draw for Biden, who did not know Becerra well before nominating him. The choice became one of Biden’s most controversial, with Republican leaders branding Becerra as too far to the left for the post, citing his unyielding support for abortion rights, his longtime advocacy for “Medicare for all,” and the over 100 lawsuits he filed against the Trump administration as California’s top prosecutor. And although several previous HHS secretaries had no formal medical training, Republicans also tried to make Becerra’s lack of experience in the field an issue.
Secretary of Housing and Urban Development
MARCIA L. FUDGE
Confirmed March 10
Fudge, an Ohio Democrat first elected to the House in 2008, lobbied for President Biden to nominate her to be the first Black female secretary of Agriculture before he selected her to lead the nation’s housing agency. Fudge told senators her immediate priority would be to ensure that Americans hit hard by the pandemic can stay in their homes. In Congress, Fudge served on the Committee on House Administration as well as the Agriculture and Education and Labor committees. She chairs the House Administration Subcommittee on Elections and the Agriculture Subcommittee on Nutrition, Oversight and Department Operations. She is a former chair of the Congressional Black Caucus.
Secretary of Transportation
Confirmed Feb. 2
Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Ind., made his splash in national politics as a rival of now-President Biden during the Democratic presidential primary campaign. He became the first openly gay candidate to win a caucus or primary after narrowly winning Iowa’s Democratic contest. Buttigieg positioned himself on the campaign trail as a policy wonk and a common-sense bridge builder, vowing to bring a fresh approach to government and leave behind partisan bunkers. A Rhodes scholar and a Navy veteran who served in Afghanistan, Buttigieg often draws on his experience working to revitalize the distressed city of South Bend. Although he and Biden cut very different paths in the campaign, their approach to politics is similar. Buttigieg is expected to take an outside-the-box approach to the transportation role, using it as a springboard to promote innovation in public spending as well as pioneering approaches to combat climate change.
Secretary of Energy
JENNIFER M. GRANHOLM
Confirmed Feb. 25
Granholm is a former two-term governor of Michigan, the first woman in that position, and became a familiar figure as a CNN political commentator from 2017 through 2020. She previously had her own show on the now-defunct Current TV network. After her first election as governor in 2002, some pundits saw her as a potential presidential candidate, but the talk was short-lived: Born in Vancouver, Canada, Granholm is ineligible to run under the Constitution. She was 4 when her family moved to California; she became a U.S. citizen at 21 and graduated from UC Berkeley, where she also taught after her governorship. Granholm graduated from Harvard Law School and moved to Michigan before launching her political career, first becoming state attorney general and then governor. As Energy secretary, she is expected to draw on her ties to labor unions and the auto industry as President Biden seeks to promote clean power sources.
Secretary of Education
Confirmed March 1
Cardona, a former elementary school teacher and principal, was Connecticut’s education secretary when President Biden chose him to lead the U.S. Department of Education. Cardona, who is of Puerto Rican descent, had the backing of teachers unions and Latino activists. In Connecticut, Cardona had pushed successfully to reopen many schools during the pandemic, giving him experience with one of the most politically vexing issues Biden faces. Cardona’s challenges will include helping school districts nationwide fully reopen classrooms, then helping develop ways to make up for students’ missed learning opportunities during the lockdown.
Secretary of Veterans Affairs
Confirmed Feb. 8
McDonough, a White House chief of staff to former President Obama, is only the second nonveteran to lead the agency. A Minnesota native, he was an aide in Obama’s Senate office, and at the White House also served in national security roles and helped oversee Obama’s effort to reduce wait times for patients at veterans hospitals. His experience as a troubleshooter and insider is seen as key as he takes on long-running problems at the second-largest federal agency, including a troubled effort to sync veterans’ medical records with those at the Defense Department.
Secretary of Homeland Security
ALEJANDRO N. MAYORKAS
Confirmed Feb. 2
Born in Cuba and raised in Los Angeles, Mayorkas is the first Latino and first immigrant to serve as Homeland Security secretary — marking a dramatic shift in tone and policy from the Trump administration. Senate Republicans delayed his confirmation even though the Senate had confirmed Mayorkas for three prior positions — including deputy Homeland Security secretary in the Obama administration. The GOP opposition, which focused on allegations that Mayorkas “exerted improper influence” as President Obama’s director of Citizenship and Immigration Services, underscores the challenge for Mayorkas and Homeland Security as Washington grapples with the fallout of the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol and prepares for another fight over immigration. President Biden has proposed a comprehensive immigration overhaul and issued a spate of executive orders aimed at undoing President Trump’s restrictions on immigration. But with thousands of migrants stranded at the U.S.-Mexico border, Mayorkas has kept some of Trump’s most restrictive policies in place, saying they remain necessary amid a pandemic.
Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency
MICHAEL S. REGAN
Confirmed March 10
Regan led the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality and has a reputation for working with Democrats and Republicans in his home state, making him an appealing candidate for the Biden administration. He is the first Black man to oversee the EPA. Regan spent nearly a decade working in the EPA’s air quality and energy programs during the Clinton and George W. Bush administrations. He has also worked for the Environmental Defense Fund, an advocacy organization. As North Carolina’s top environmental regulator, he was credited with brokering the largest coal-ash cleanup settlement in the country. Regan has said he shares President Biden’s sense of urgency on combating climate change and would prioritize environmental justice and science in the agency’s decision-making.
Director of the Office of Management and Budget
Biden on March 2 withdrew the nomination of longtime Democratic policy advisor Neera Tanden to be his budget director, an acknowledgment that she could not win confirmation in the Senate. He has yet to name another nominee. The chairwoman of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus is pushing the Biden administration to name an AAPI nominee.
Director of national intelligence
Confirmed Jan. 20
Haines, a former deputy CIA director and deputy national security advisor, is the first woman to serve as the top official in the intelligence community. A lawyer, she was an aide on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 2007 when now-President Biden was chair. At the CIA during the Obama administration, she decided against disciplining personnel who hacked computers of Senate staffers who were writing a report on the CIA’s use of torture, overruling the agency’s inspector general. In her new role, she declassified a U.S. intelligence report that concluded Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman had ordered the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Haines is expected to focus on restoring relations between intelligence agencies and the White House, ties that were badly strained under former President Trump.
U.S. trade representative
Confirmed March 17
Tai, who is the first Asian American U.S. trade ambassador, was an unusual choice: She is not from a blue-chip law firm or think tank, a multinational corporation or political office. She was most recently a Democratic congressional aide — the chief trade counsel on the House Ways and Means Committee. In that role, Tai impressed people in both major parties, as well as union leaders and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, with her deft work toward reaching bipartisan accord on a rewrite of the quarter-century-old North American Free Trade Agreement into the new U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, a top priority of former President Trump. A daughter of Chinese immigrants who is fluent in Mandarin, Tai has been a critic of China’s aggressive, often illegal, trade practices. Foreign Policy magazine wrote: “It’s impossible to find anyone who will say anything bad about Katherine Tai.” In announcing her nomination, President Biden told her: “I’ve gotten more calls complimenting me on your appointment than you can imagine.”
Chair of the White House Council of Economic Advisors
Confirmed March 2
Rouse, an economist who grew up in Del Mar, is the first Black person to serve as chair of the council that advises the president on economic policy. She was previously a member of the three-person Council of Economic Advisors late in the Clinton administration and early in President Obama’s. Before President Biden enlisted her, Rouse was dean of Princeton University’s School of Public and International Affairs. During her career, her economic research has focused on educational inequities, discrimination and other factors that exacerbate the country’s wealth gap. She has made clear that she plans to focus the council’s work on analyzing and promoting policies to make economic opportunities more equitable.
Administrator of the Small Business Administration
Confirmed March 16
Guzman was working for California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s Office of Business and Economic Development when President Biden tapped her to lead the Small Business Administration. She previously worked there during the Obama administration. Guzman has also served as an advisor to ProAmerica Bank, which later merged with Pacific Commerce Bank, both based in Los Angeles. The federal Small Business Administration facilitates loans to small businesses and helps communities recover from economic setbacks and natural disasters. It has also played a key role during the COVID-19 pandemic, overseeing the Paycheck Protection Program intended to prevent layoffs at businesses adversely affected by restrictions to limit the spread of the coronavirus.
Presidential science advisor and director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy
Awaiting Senate confirmation hearing
Under President Biden, the top White House science advisor will be considered a member of the Cabinet for the first time. If confirmed, Lander will lead the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, which helps formulate guidelines and practices across the federal government. Lander was most recently the founding director of the Broad Institute, a partnership between MIT and Harvard that uses genomics to fight disease. He helped lead the Human Genome Project and also served in the Obama administration. He has a background in genetics, molecular biology and mathematics.
White House chief of staff
Does not require Senate confirmation
Klain came to the job familiar not just with President Biden, but with the White House: He was chief of staff to two vice presidents, Al Gore and Biden, and served as President Obama’s Ebola response czar. Klain has experience in all three branches of government. He was a Supreme Court clerk after law school, and in 1989 became general counsel for the Senate Judiciary Committee when Biden was chairman, including during the contentious confirmation of Justice Clarence Thomas. Klain then served as a counsel to President Clinton before becoming Gore’s chief of staff in Clinton’s second term, with a break in between to work as staff director for the Senate Democratic leadership. He was Gore’s general counsel during the 2000 election recount. Over the last two decades, he also had stints in the private sector as a lawyer-lobbyist and as an executive at a venture capital firm.
Ambassador to the United Nations
Confirmed Feb. 23
Thomas-Greenfield was a 30-year career diplomat and the most senior Black official at the State Department when the Trump administration forced her out. She served as assistant secretary of State for African affairs and in numerous embassy posts in Africa and elsewhere. Thomas-Greenfield is a strong advocate for greater diversity in the foreign service, often seen as a club for white men, and for rebuilding an agency depleted under President Trump. “The United States needs a top-to-bottom diplomatic surge,” she wrote ahead of her nomination. As a native of Louisiana, she promotes what she calls “gumbo diplomacy,” using personal interactions such as sharing a meal of the Cajun stew to help break down barriers and tackle tough issues.
Special presidential envoy for climate
JOHN F. KERRY
Sworn in Jan. 20
After serving as President Obama’s secretary of State, Kerry has a new diplomatic post — one that didn’t exist until now. His role in this new Cabinet-level position will be to restore the United States’ position as a global leader in combating climate change and to repair the country’s credibility with foreign leaders after the Trump administration’s decision to pull out of the 2015 Paris climate accord. He will also have a seat on the National Security Council. During his four years as the country’s top diplomat, Kerry helped negotiate the Paris agreement and the Iran nuclear deal. From 1985 to 2013, he represented Massachusetts in the Senate. After the Obama administration, Kerry launched a group of celebrities and world leaders working to combat climate change, called World War Zero. The creation of his position is a sign of President Biden’s desire to reengage in international climate talks and to elevate the issue of global warming within his administration.
This article was reported by Times staff writers Noah Bierman, Jackie Calmes, David S. Cloud, Evan Halper, David Lauter, Chris Megerian, Molly O’Toole, Anna M. Phillips, Eli Stokols, Del Quentin Wilber, Tracy Wilkinson and Sarah D. Wire.