Image Courtesy of The Independent
By Justin Lamoureux
Last weekend, most families across the country kicked off a truly unconventional holiday season with low-key dinners, minimal gatherings (if any), and quiet weekends at home. But for President-elect Joe Biden and the close network of advisors who comprise his transition team, the holiday weekend proved to be anything but restful.
Let’s start from the beginning: After nearly three weeks of political gridlock, the General Services Administration formally recognized Biden as the president-elect. Administrator Emily Murphy published a letter confirming this on November 23, which effectively marked the beginning of a formal transition process. Several lawmakers had criticized the Trump Administration – and Murphy, in particular – for delaying their response with the intention of hindering a peaceful transfer of power.
After receiving the “green light” to begin taking steps towards a formal transition, Biden and his team wasted no time in making their preparations. The president-elect commenced this process by selecting individuals to fill a variety of cabinet positions. Biden has focused his attention on a wide variety of credentials and characteristics when making decisions regarding such appointments, but many of his choices have a shared history as members of the Obama Administration. Take Anthony Blinken (Biden’s choice for Secretary of State), for instance: Prior to being tapped by the Biden Transition Team for this executive role, Blinken served as Deputy Secretary of State in the last Democratic administration.
During the selection process, Biden has also worked to ensure that individuals selected to join his cabinet are well-positioned to help navigate the country through a turbulent political era. Such diligence is highly reflected in Alejandro Mayorkas, his choice for Secretary of Homeland Security. During his tenure in the Obama Administration, Mayorkas oversaw the DHS Response to both the Ebola and Zika outbreaks. Likewise, as a member of the Federal Reserve, Janet Yellen – who Biden has invited to serve as Secretary of the Treasury – was credited with ensuring a successful recovery from the 2007 financial crisis and the subsequent economic recession.
After winning the presidency with an electoral coalition marked by diversity, Biden has significant pressure from within his own party to consider demographics while building his administration. So far, the president-elect has appeared receptive; Mayorkas will make history as the first latino to lead the Department of Homeland Security, as well as the first immigrant. Yellen, meanwhile, will be the first woman to serve as Secretary of the Treasury. Another groundbreaking pick is Avril Haines, who, if confirmed, will become the first female Director of National Intelligence.
So, what do all these developments forebode regarding the future Biden Administration? For starters, Biden now has the resources at his disposal to facilitate an uncomplicated transfer of power over the next seven weeks. Not only does Biden now find himself in a financially optimal position, he also possesses the information needed to plan ahead for the specific challenges his administration will face. At the same time, however, his resistance to calls from the progressive faction of the Democratic Party for a younger, greener and more left-leaning slate of cabinet members demonstrates a lack of caution on Biden’s part. In other words, it proves that he intends to cater to a broader base of Americans, rather than placate a minimal faction of his base.
Essentially, the president-elect and his transition team face a complicated dilemma: While they strive to create a progressive administration unprecedented in demographic composition, they also face the prospect of resistance from a Republican-controlled Senate. In fact, a number of prominent GOP senators have already declared their opposition to some of Biden’s choices. If Biden wants to build an effective cabinet, he will most likely need to earn the support of the few Republican lawmakers who have expressed a willingness to support his efforts. Chances are, this will mean settling for a more centrist – and conventional – slate of members.