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Politics

Joe Biden’s first Cabinet picks expected Tuesday amid Trump’s road blocks to transition

WILMINGTON, Del. — President-elect Joe Biden’s first Cabinet picks are coming Tuesday and planning is underway for a pandemic-modified inauguration in January as his team moves forward despite road blocks from the Trump administration.

Ron Klain, Biden’s incoming chief of staff, offered no details Sundays about which department heads Biden would first announce. The Associated Press has reported that Biden could name his nominee for secretary of state or treasury secretary this coming week.

Biden has pledged to build the most diverse government in modern history, and he and his team often speak about their desire for his administration to reflect America. He is being watched to see whether he will make history by nominating the first woman to lead the Pentagon, the Treasury Department or the Department of Veterans Affairs, or the first African American at the top the Defense Department, the Interior Department or the Treasury Department.

Biden said last week he had settled on his pick for treasury secretary.

Klain said the Trump administration’s refusal to clear the way for Biden’s team to have access to key information about agencies and federal dollars for the transition is taking its toll on planning, including the Cabinet selection process. Trump’s General Services Administration has yet to acknowledge that Biden won the election — a determination that would remove those roadblocks.

“We’re not in a position to get background checks on Cabinet nominees. And so there are definite impacts. Those impacts escalate every day,” Klain told ABC’s “This Week.”

Even some Republicans have broken with Trump in recent days and called on him to accept the results of the election.

Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., said there was a “very good chance” Biden would be president and that Biden and his team should have access to relevant information for the transition. After a federal judge’s ruling against the Trump campaign in an election challenge in Pennsylvania on Saturday, GOP Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania said the president had “exhausted all plausible legal options” and Toomey congratulated Biden on his win.

And on Sunday, former Republican Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, a longtime Trump supporter, said on ABC that it was time for the president to stop contesting the outcome. Christie said Trump’s his legal team was a “national embarrassment.”

Looking ahead to the Jan. 20 inauguration, Klain said it is “definitely have to be changed” due to the coronavirus pandemic, and that the Biden team is consulting with Democratic leadership in the House and Senate over their plans.

“They’re going to try to have an inauguration that honors the importance and the symbolic meaning of the moment, but also does not result in the spread of the disease. That’s our goal,” Klain said.

Inaugurations typically include a traditional parade down Pennsylvania Avenue, remarks by the president and vice president from the Capitol, a lunch with lawmakers in the Capitol rotunda and numerous balls across Washington. All are events attended by hundreds and sometimes hundreds of thousands of people who travel to the nation’s capital.

It’s unclear how public health concerns will affect those traditions.

During the campaign, Biden drew a contrast with Trump on the coronavirus by paring down his own events in response to the pandemic. Biden held smaller gatherings where people were asked to wear masks and adhere to social distancing recommendations from public health experts. Since he won the presidency, Biden has emphasized the importance of mask-wearing.

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World News

Who are the top contenders for the Biden administration?

(Reuters) – President-elect Joe Biden has promised to build an administration that reflects the diversity of the country, and is expected to announce his choices for some key White House posts in the next few weeks.

U.S. Representative Cedric Richmond, a Democrat from Louisiana, speaks during a House Judiciary Committee markup on H.R. 7120, the “Justice in Policing Act of 2020,” in Washington, D.C., U.S., June 17, 2020. Erin Scott/Pool via REUTERS

Biden was expected to unveil more members of his senior team as soon as Tuesday, according to a person familiar with the matter. Here are some top contenders for other prominent positions, according to Reuters reporting.

SENIOR STAFF MOVES

Cedric Richmond – the U.S. Representative who was a national co-chair of Biden’s campaign and former chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, is expected to join the administration in a senior capacity. Richmond’s move would leave his Louisiana congressional seat open, a consideration as Democrats’ majority in the House contracted in the Nov. 3 election.

Steve Ricchetti – long a close adviser to Biden, is also expected to take a senior role.

Jen O’Malley Dillon – who was brought in early this year as Biden’s campaign manager and is the first woman to lead a winning Democratic presidential bid, is expected to be named a deputy chief of staff.

SECRETARY OF STATE

Chris Coons – The Democratic U.S. senator from Delaware, Biden’s home state, is a close Biden friend and adviser who is a prominent member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and would presumably have an easy path to confirmation from his Senate colleagues.

Susan Rice – The former national security adviser, U.N. ambassador and assistant secretary of state was on Biden’s short list as a possible running mate. Her deep experience makes her a logical choice, but she could face Republican opposition over her involvement in the controversy over the deadly 2012 attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya.

William Burns – The longtime career foreign service officer is a former deputy secretary of state, ambassador to Russia and lead negotiator in the secret talks that eventually paved the way to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. He is now president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

TREASURY SECRETARY

Lael Brainard – She is a member of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors and a former undersecretary for international affairs during the 2009 global financial crisis. She has voted against regulatory rollbacks on banks but could face criticism from liberals who want a less moderate choice.

Sarah Bloom Raskin – She formerly served as a Fed governor and deputy Treasury secretary, the only woman so far to hold the second-in-command role at the agency. A lawyer and former state financial regulator in Maryland, she has worked in finance, and currently serves as a director with Vanguard, the investment giant with $6 trillion in assets under management.

Janet Yellen – The former Fed chair deepened the Fed’s focus on workers and inequality and has remained active in policy debates at the Brookings Institution think tank after President Donald Trump replaced her as head of the central bank in 2018.

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DEFENSE SECRETARY

Michele Flournoy – She is the consensus front-runner for the job, which would make her the first woman to lead the Pentagon. She served as a top Defense Department official in the Bill Clinton and Barack Obama administrations, advised Biden’s campaign on defense issues and co-founded a consulting firm with Antony Blinken, one of Biden’s top advisers.

Tammy Duckworth – The U.S. senator from Illinois, who was considered as a possible Biden running mate, lost both her legs when her helicopter came under fire while she was an Army officer in Iraq in 2004. She was an assistant secretary of veterans affairs under Obama and would be the first Thai-American Cabinet member.

ATTORNEY GENERAL

Sally Yates – A former deputy attorney general, she was briefly the acting attorney general early in Trump’s term before being fired for insubordination for refusing to defend travel restrictions targeting seven Muslim-majority nations.

Doug Jones – A former federal prosecutor with a strong civil rights record, Jones won a U.S. Senate seat in a 2017 special election in deeply conservative Alabama. He was defeated this year by Republican Tommy Tuberville, a former football coach.

ENERGY SECRETARY

Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall – A former adviser to Biden when he was in the U.S. Senate, she served in the Obama administration as deputy secretary of energy, where she led an initiative to address cyber and physical challenges to the power grid. She is now a professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology.

Arun Majumdar – He was the first director of the U.S. Department of Energy’s agency that promotes and funds research and development of advanced energy technologies, and also served as acting undersecretary of energy from March 2011 to June 2012. He also worked at Alphabet Inc’s GOOGL.O Google as vice president for energy before joining the faculty at Stanford University.

Jay Inslee – He focused on climate change during his failed presidential bid in 2019, but was re-elected to a third term as governor of Washington this year. He has been pushed for consideration in the Cabinet by environmental activists given his efforts to pass a carbon tax and clean-fuels standard.

ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY

Heather McTeer Toney – A former regional administrator of the EPA under Obama, the clean-air activist is national field director for Moms Clean Air Force. A favorite of progressives, she has advocated and trained diverse officials on leadership and climate in over 15 countries including Kenya, France, Portugal, Nigeria and Senegal.

Mary Nichols – The former assistant administrator for the EPA during Clinton’s administration is chairwoman of California’s Air Resources Board, which regulates air pollution in the state.

CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY

Michael Morell – He was the CIA’s deputy director and acting director of the agency twice under Obama. He is now the chairman of the geopolitical risk practice at Beacon Global Strategies, a consulting firm in Washington.

Avril Haines – She was the deputy national security adviser under Obama, and previously was the first woman to serve as CIA deputy director. She held several posts at Columbia University after leaving the Obama administration in 2017.

HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES

Vivek Murthy – A physician and former surgeon general, Murphy has gained prominence in recent months as co-chairman of Biden’s advisory board on dealing with the coronavirus pandemic, which the president-elect has pledged to make his top priority on taking office.

Mandy Cohen – A physician who serves as the secretary of North Carolina’s Health and Human Services Department, where she has been a major advocate for expanding Medicaid, the government health insurance program for low-income Americans. She served as the chief operating officer at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in the Obama administration.

David Kessler – The former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration has been a co-chair of Biden’s advisory board on the coronavirus pandemic. As head of the FDA, he cut the time needed to approve drugs to treat AIDS and moved to try to regulate the tobacco industry.

HOMELAND SECURITY

Alejandro Mayorkas – A Cuban-American lawyer, he would be the first Latino to head the department. As head of Citizenship and Immigration Services under Obama, he led implementation of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program for so-called Dreamers, who were brought to the United States illegally as children. DACA drew Republican criticism and could lead to Republican opposition in the Senate if he is nominated.

Xavier Becerra – The former congressman succeeded Vice President-elect Kamala Harris as California attorney general, where he has won praise at times from progressives, and also could be considered to replace her in the U.S. Senate.

Lisa Monaco – The former Biden aide on the Senate Judiciary Committee, where she worked on the Violence Against Women Act, was also a top adviser on homeland security to Obama. She served as an assistant attorney general for national security, and chief of staff to former FBI Director Robert Mueller.

AMBASSADOR TO UNITED NATIONS

Wendy Sherman – She helped lead the nuclear negotiations with Iran while serving as the State Department’s undersecretary for political affairs under Obama.

Pete Buttigieg – The former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, and Afghanistan veteran fell short in his presidential bid this year but became one of Biden’s top advocates in the campaign against Trump, putting him in line for a top job in the administration.

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