Written by Nolan Alisago (News Writer)
As Biden begins his transition by selecting nominations for his cabinet, he struggles to appease both allies and opposition in what is sure to be a grueling confirmation process. Although the Senate is still in the air with the Georgia runoff elections, it’s clear regardless of who has control of the Senate, Biden’s nominees will all face uphill battles. Those who have been selected are either too far left or too centrist for the right and left wings respectively, and liberal groups are pushing for more diversity in what is already shaping up to be the most diverse cabinet in U.S history. Now a two-front battle fits of rage, with conflict over confirming nominees, and battles within the party for who to nominate. Key roles have yet to be filled and many have a controversial shortlist. Despite a large number of important vacancies, the transition team is shifting to filling positions that won’t require Senate approval.
Biden has selected who he wants to fill all senior Whitehouse staff positions, with only the Director of Office of Management and Budget requiring confirmation. All of the Key white house staff position nominees were not surprising, as all had some record working for the previous administration and Joe Biden. Biden made the safe and uncontroversial nomination of Jannet Yellen to be secretary of the treasury, while being incredibly qualified with years of experience running the federal reserve under her belt, she is also notable for, if confirmed, being the first woman to fill the position. While his economic policy nominations have been largely successful and uncontroversial with a diverse set of qualified individuals, his national security team has come under intense scrutiny. Progressives got a big win by successfully advocating Biden to skip on his top pick for secretary of defense, Michele Flourney. She was criticized for her hawkish positions and rotating door relationship with the military-industrial complex. Of course, these criticisms are equally valid for his selected Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, who too has questionable relationships with private entities in the arms world and a history of hawkish interventionist positions. When Biden skipped on Flourney he chose General Loyd Austin, who is less controversial among people and more controversial among politicians. While he is no doubt qualified, secretary of defense is traditionally a civilian position, and having a retired general lead the pentagon is an incredibly politically taboo choice, as having a civilian lead the pentagon is a measure intended to reduce the possibility of a military coup. While there are still many key positions left empty in positions outside the Whitehouse, his national defense team, and economic advisory team, Biden was quick to name the officials who will lead the fight against COVID-19. Secretary of Health and human services nominee Xavier Becerra is of particular note. As the current attorney general of California, he would mark the second Californian (behind Kamala Harris) to be in a high position in the Biden administration. Both Becerra’s and Harris’s positions will be filled by appointment from Governor Newsom, giving him much more political influence than would be typical. As California currently has the most cases total (not by percent of the population) Governor Newsom commented that having a Californian in a position leading the fight Against COVID could be huge for getting the resources we need.
Regardless of how progressive or conservative Biden’s cabinet is, it was always going to be a rough confirmation process. Republicans, who still largely have yet to recognize Biden’s victory, aim to frustrate his administration. Attempting to indiscriminately block nominations is very much on the table, especially if Mitch McConnel continues to lead and Republicans maintain control of the senate. Because of the coming war over nominations, Biden’s team has begun to transition to nominations that don’t require confirmation. This is in hopes that lower-level positions can get a security clearance in time for inauguration so that they can hit the ground running when his term begins. Biden ran on being a unifier who hopes to work with both the parties and this nomination process is an early test of this claim, with the results likely to be a precursor to the rest of his presidency.