A New Cabinet, Stocked and Loaded
As a new President takes his place as Commander-in-Chief, a new set of legislators have been put into power in the Cabinet. President Joe Biden has already filled many Cabinet nominations, with 25 of them forming the forefront of his leadership. Sixty percent of that is composed of the 15 secretaries of executive departments and ten others include the White House Chief of Staff, the Director of National Intelligence, and the U.S. Trade Representative. According to the White House, these new appointments are aimed to create a more diverse and inclusive government.
Ron Klain has been appointed as the Chief of Staff. He will be in charge of keeping the President’s schedule, overseeing the White House staff, and serving as an advisor to President Biden.
Third in succession, after Vice President Kamala Harris, is the Secretary of State, appointed to Anthony Blinken. Blinken, in his address to the nation on January 27th, emphasized the importance of pushing for policy to benefit American families and create a brighter future for generations to come. He covered topics such as ending the COVID-19 pandemic, improving the economic crisis, and fighting for racial justice. Additionally, he pushed for the need to invest in the Department of State’s own people and create a more diverse, creative Department which values diversity and inclusion. According to the Department of State, he spoke about the importance of the U.S. having international influence, saying “America’s leadership is needed around the world, and we’ll provide it, because the world is far more likely to solve problems and meet challenges when the United States is there. America at its best still has a greater capacity than any other nation on Earth to mobilize others for the better."
In charge of U.S. banks, President Biden appointed Dr. Janet Yellen to the position of Secretary of the Treasury. She has a long, auspicious history in economics, including getting her undergrad at Brown University, earning her PhD at Yale, and working as a current Professor Emeritus at University of California, Berkeley, amongst many other awards and honors. Her plans as new Secretary of the Treasury include pushing through a large stimulus check with the help of the President’s plan to push through a $1.9 trillion relief plan. According to the New York Times, she commented, “Neither the President-elect, nor I, propose this relief package without an appreciation for the country’s debt burden. But right now, with interest rates at historic lows, the smartest thing we can do is act big.” One of her greatest goals will be to increase financial equality in America.
The new Secretary of Defense position will be held by the retired General Lloyd Austin III, who will becomes the first Black Pentagon chief. His position comes with some apprehension, as the role is designed for a civilian and some fear he may not be able to have unbiased judgement as a retired general. Typically, retirees must be out of service for seven years before becoming Secretary of Defense, but the Senate granted him a waiver to fill the position. As far as his ambitions go, he stressed in his hearing the importance of watching out for the impending threat of China. He intends on altering the Defense Department’s National Defense Strategy, telling the Senate Armed Services Committee, “I think much of the document is absolutely on track for today’s challenges, Mr. Chairman. As is the case with all strategies — if confirmed — one of the things that I would look to do is to work to update the strategy and work within the confines of the guidance and the policy issued by the next administration,” according to the U.S. Naval Institute.
Merrick Garland, an esteemed lawyer and Democrat, has been confirmed as Attorney General. This comes after the Republican-held Senate refused to confirm as Supreme Court Justice under President Obama in 2016. Some Republicans see him as a good choice despite denying him in 2016. On the other hand, some Democrats feel he is not going to be aggressive enough, according to the Washington Post. His positions will likely fall in line with President Biden’s, with an emphasis on forcing police reform through court action as well as repealing many Trump era policies.
Dr. Miguel Cardona has been confirmed to take over as Secretary of Education. As a former Connecticut education commissioner, he is expected to put more money into K-12 and upper level education as well as push for racial equality in the classroom, says the Washington Post. Within the first 100 days since the inauguration, in keeping with President Biden’s commitment, Cardona will try to get all K-8 grade kids back to school in-person, says CBS News. In regard to COVID-19, Cardona said he will use his experience from reopening Connecticut schools to work toward opening schools nationally. He is also pushing for cooperation between school officials and health experts to make this happen, saying it’s “critically important that we work with [the] CDC, that we work with Health and Human Services to make sure that the decisions that are being made around schools are in line with what we know to protect people. That partnership matters." Additionally, one of Cardona’s biggest goals is to help relieve student loan debt. He said that, along with Congress, he would work to create "a plan that provides some relief to our students in higher education." He has not yet released an official course of action. On the topic of transgender sports participation in schools, especially in regard to women’s athletics, Cardona said, "I believe schools should offer the opportunity for students to engage in extracurricular activities even if they're transgender — I think that's their right."
The Secretary of Homeland Security has been appointed to Alejandro Mayorkas, who formerly held the position of deputy secretary in the same department. Back in 2015, according to USA Today, he helped to save the U.S. Refugee Program. A Cuban immigrant himself, he is the first Latino head of the department. His goals are centered largely around improving immigration procedures, saying “We are a nation of immigrants, built on their energy, aspirations and ideas. It is long past time we fix our broken immigration system… We will enforce our laws in a way that is humane, respects due process, and strengthens our nation and its economy.” One internal plan he is talking about is converting ICE workers of the federal deportation agency into criminal investigators. According to the Washington Times, he felt they were under the wrong pay system now, saying that they would no longer be responsible for enforcing deportation laws, in result lessening the number of arrests. Deportation officers told the Washington Post this would leave no one to take care of basic street crimes, paralleling Mayorkas’ measure to making beat cops into detectives. He is intent on reversing many of President Trump’s policies as well, such as ending construction on Trump’s infamous border wall, considering changes for the Migrant Protection Protocols which currently makes Mexicans wanting to move into the country stay in Mexico until their hearing, and creating a task force aimed at bringing families torn apart at the border back together.
President Biden’s new team represents the diversity and representation of the U.S. much more than cabinets of the past, but some Democrats are worried that the new cabinet may be too confident, says Foreign Policy. They are worried the lax nature of this new group may lead to complacency, the same complacency that allegedly led to President Trump being elected, they say. Some of the assignments don’t make sense. For example, Susan Rice, Former National Security Advisor and United Nations Ambassador, a figure who has based her career around foreign policy is now chief domestic policy advisor to the president. The new Head of Veterans Affairs, Denis McDonough, has never served in the military, and his new position has raised concerns as he might lack the empathy required of such a demanding role. Additionally, Biden’s new team isn’t very consistent in their views, with ultra-left politicians, such as Capitol Hill activist Dennis Kelleher, working beside centrist-minded legislators, such as U.S. trade representative Katherine Tai.
Some Democrats are still wondering what this new cabinet’s intentions really are. House Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) asked Capitol Hill reporters back in December 2020, “What is the agenda? What is the overall vision going to be? I think that’s a little hazy.”
Should all go as President Biden intends, with the new POTUS, we should see decreasing COVID-19 cases as businesses reopen, increased social reform protecting minority groups, relaxed authoritarianism at the border, and forgiven student loan debt, amongst other pushes.
Whatever happens, one can be sure his influence will be remembered long after he is gone. As a president who is going into his term with so many issues already on the forefront of the social and political global stage, Biden will certainly face many hardships. According to Jeffrey A. Engel, founding director of the Center for Presidential History at Southern Methodist University,
"Biden has the chance to go down as one of the great presidents in American history, simply because he's got a whole hell of a lot of problems to solve. You can't be a great unless you have great obstacles to overcome."
As his term begins and Biden’s era takes off, the next few years will reveal if this new cabinet was stocked well.
More information about Senate appointments can be found at washingtonpost.com.