Analysis of Biden’s Most Influential Cabinet Picks


Caroline Owen

In the weeks since he was confirmed as President-Elect of the United States, Joe Biden has announced his appointees for several high-level Cabinet positions. In order to assume their new responsibilities, most, but not all, of the men and women Biden has named to his Cabinet will need to be officially appointed by the Senate and other government committees in early 2021.


Below is an overview of some of Biden’s most influential initial appointees, including an analysis on their selection and a brief summary of their past political experience pertaining to the position they have been nominated for.


Secretary of State – Anthony Blinken


Bio: 58 years old; served in both the State Department and National Security Council under Clinton; former Deputy Secretary of State and Deputy National Security Advisor under Obama


Analysis: Blinken’s previous experience with State and National offices grant him the necessary experience to lead such an important office. He also has worked in a political DC-based think tank, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, which could possibly aid him at devising inventive ways to adapt to our current, tumultuous political and international climate. A former advisor to Obama, Blinken has worked closely with Biden in the past and has helped US diplomatic efforts to form strong relationships with other nations. Blinken is considered a very practical mediator and is considered highly qualified to not only help to repair American relationships with other nations, but also to prevent further ideological rifts within our country.


Secretary of the Treasury – Janet Yellen


Bio: 74 years old; former chair of the Federal Reserve; former chair of Council of Economic Advisors under Clinton; former President of the Federal bank of San Francisco


Analysis: Yellen has been involved in economic and financial endeavors for decades and has been hailed by prominent politicians, most notably Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts. If inaugurated, she would be the first woman to lead the Treasury Department. Her credentials place her as one of the most highly qualified individuals to lead the post, which her career has had her work closely with in the past. Her close, coordinated relationship with the Federal Reserve will allow her to forge a close relationship between the two sectors of America’s financial departments, and her experience working with American financial districts during the 2008-09 recession will help her to effectively rebound our economy post-pandemic.


Secretary of Defense – General Lloyd Austin III


Bio: 67 years old; former leader of US Military Operatives in Iraq; former Vice Chief of Staff of the US Army; retired from military in 2014


Analysis: If inaugurated, Austin would be the first African-American to lead the DoD, making him one of Biden’s many historic cabinet picks. Additionally, his selection would require a waiver of the National Security act of 1947 which states that former US military members must wait at least 7 years before being named to the head of Defense. Austin has stated that he is grateful for the opportunity to lead Defense with his “unique perspective” as one of the only two Secretary of Defense nominees who was also formerly involved with the military. Biden wrote in a statement that he chose Austin to lead the DoD as they both share a commitment to “putting American leadership back on the table” and encouraging less aggressive tactics of military intervention in both domestic and international conflicts.


Secretary of the Interior – Deb Haaland


Bio:  60 years old; former Representative from New Mexico’s 1st District; former chairwoman of New Mexico’s Democratic Party


Analysis: Haaland was formerly in consideration for the position of Vice President and is a close advisor to Biden on tribal and Native American affairs. A 35th-generation New Mexican (whose family has lived on the Pueblo since the 1200s), Haaland is the first Native American ever to be named the Secretary of a major US cabinet position. Haaland’s appointment was historic as it was called upon by more than 120 Tribal leaders and has been publicly championed my more than 50 representatives, and she called the opportunity “blessed” to be able to oversee Tribal and Indenous affairs as someone from Indigenous background who can give a greater voice to the concerns of Native Americans.


United States Trade Representative – Katherine Tai


Bio: 46 years old; former member of Trade Representative Office of General Council; former Chief Trade Council for Means and Ways Committee; worked on trade cases at WTO


Analysis: If confirmed by the Senate, Tai will be the 2nd Asian-American in Biden’s cabinet and the first ever to serve as the USTR. Her work will be some of the most influential in Biden’s term as Tai is tasked with reviving the fragile US-China trade relations brought about by Trump’s “America-first” trade policy under which he implemented many tariffs on Chinese goods as well as economic tension that has emerged due to the coronavirus. Tai is uniquely equipped to address these issues due to her previous work with the Committee on Ways and Means, where she worked to negotiate US-Mexico-Canada trade agreements. Additionally, her perspective as a Taiwanese-American as well as her former work as a scholar at Sun-Yat-Sen University in China will help the USTR Council to navigate the complicated US-China trade relations as she has a more personal understanding of how the two world superpowers interact.