Joe Biden, the US president-elect, has tapped Susan Rice to run the White House domestic policy council, an unexpected move that gives the former national security adviser a critical role setting economic policy.
The decision to name Ms Rice to run the domestic policy council was the most surprising of a series of cabinet picks Mr Biden unveiled on Thursday.
Mr Biden had considered Ms Rice, who served as US ambassador to the UN and national security adviser during Barack Obama’s administration, for secretary of state, but chose Antony Blinken, one of his veteran aides.
While the choice reflected the fact that Mr Biden has filled most of the national security roles, the White House position does not require Senate confirmation. That will save Ms Rice — who is unpopular with Republicans — from having to go through a bruising confirmation battle on Capitol Hill.
A Biden transition team official said Mr Rice would oversee the “build back better” platform Mr Biden outlined during the campaign, which aims to build a sustainable economic recovery that does more for US workers. The official said Mr Biden believed that it was important not to separate foreign, economic and domestic policy in separate, unrelated spheres.
“Rice knows government inside and out and she is the best person to do this job,” the official said.
Ms Rice, who has a strong relationship with Mr Biden, was also considered as his vice-presidential running mate but lost out to Kamala Harris, a US senator from California.
As part of the latest rollout of his cabinet, Mr Biden on Thursday named Katherine Tai, an international trade expert and top congressional aide, to succeed Robert Lighthizer as US trade representative. The pick was welcomed by trade groups and the AFL-CIO, the biggest union umbrella organisation.
“Katherine Tai’s nomination signals a stark departure from the failed practices of the past,” said Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO. “America’s labor movement was proud to partner with her to craft the North American Free Trade Agreement’s long-overdue replacement, the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, with enforceable labor rights.”
In another move that underscored how many former Obama administration officials are being tapped for key roles in the incoming Biden administration, Mr Biden selected Denis McDonough, who served as chief of staff to Mr Obama, to run the veterans affairs department.
Mr Biden also picked his friend Tom Vilsack to serve as agriculture secretary, a job the former Iowa governor held for all eight years of the Obama administration. Marcia Fudge, a black congresswoman, was chosen as secretary of housing and urban development.
The announcements came a day after Mr Biden selected Lloyd Austin, a retired four-star army general, to serve as the first African-American secretary of defence.
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