The runners and riders for top jobs in Joe Biden’s administration

President-elect Joe Biden has pledged to create the most diverse cabinet in US history. In addition to tackling the pandemic, his team will face a tough economic environment that will make his choice of Treasury secretary particularly critical.

He must also repair relations with foreign allies, which were damaged over the past four years, making his picks for the state department and Pentagon especially important too.

He might even decide to appoint a Republican to a big job to improve the chances of bipartisanship in Congress.

The odds are high that he will have to deal with a Republican-controlled Senate, which must confirm nominees for all the top jobs with the exception of White House national security adviser.

Here are some names being floated in Washington as possible choices for the top cabinet positions:


Lael Brainard, a current Fed governor and former Treasury under-secretary for international affairs, is considered the leading candidate. At the Fed, she has focused on financial regulation, including advocating for higher capital buffers and bolstering lending in lower income and minority communities.

Sarah Bloom Raskin, a former deputy Treasury secretary and former Fed governor, would be looked upon kindly by progressive Democrats.

Lael Brainard © Bloomberg
Janet Yellen © Reuters

Roger Ferguson, chief executive of the pension fund TIAA-CREF and a former vice-chair of the Fed, would be among the most Wall Street-friendly picks given his role at a big investment firm.

Janet Yellen, a former Fed chair and White House official, would bring vast experience to the job. She is strongly committed to fiscal stimulus during the pandemic — a position she laid out in an opinion piece in the New York Times in August. 


Bill Burns, a former deputy secretary of state and a widely respected foreign service veteran, would be a welcome choice among the department’s ranks to rebuild morale at Foggy Bottom and relationships with US allies.

Susan Rice © Getty Images
Chris Coons © Bloomberg

Susan Rice, a former national security adviser to Barack Obama, is on the more hawkish end of the liberal spectrum in terms of military intervention. She could struggle to win Senate confirmation because of opposition from Republicans over her role explaining the attack on the US consulate in Benghazi in 2012. She also called Lindsey Graham, the Republican chairman of the judiciary committee, “a piece of shit”.

Chris Coons, a Delaware senator who is close to Mr Biden, is a fan of a bipartisan approach, something Mr Biden has said is important.


Antony Blinken, a former deputy secretary of state and deputy national security adviser, is viewed as the most likely choice. But the veteran Biden aide is also seen as a leading contender for secretary of state. Partly educated in France, he is a strong proponent of rebuilding US alliances.

Antony Blinken © AP
Jake Sullivan © AP

Jake Sullivan, a former top aide to Hillary Clinton who was instrumental in negotiating the Iran nuclear deal, is widely respected. But he is believed to be more interested in a top domestic policy role in the White House.


Michèle Flournoy, a former top Pentagon official, is the strong favourite. She would be the first female secretary of defence. She made her name in counterinsurgency but has pivoted to view China and the need for more cutting-edge defence technology as the most significant challenges for the US. 

Michèle Flournoy © Bloomberg
Tammy Duckworth © Getty Images

Tammy Duckworth, an Iraq war veteran and Illinois senator, and Jack Reed, the top Democrat on the Senate armed services committee, are viewed as long-shot candidates if Mr Biden wants to put a politician in the role.


Avril Haines, a former CIA deputy director and deputy national security adviser, could return to take the top job at the agency, although her background is more as a lawyer than a traditional intelligence professional.

Michael Morell, a former acting CIA director who spent most of his career at the agency, is viewed as a strong choice among the rank and file at the department.

Michael Morell © Bloomberg
Mike Rogers © AP

Mike Rogers, a former Republican House intelligence committee head, is being floated as a possible director of national intelligence. He would bring a bipartisan flavour to the team.

Robert Cardillo, a former head of the national geospatial-intelligence agency, is another possible choice for DNI. Like Mr Rogers, he would be especially focused on cyber security.


Mike Wessel, a member of the US-China economic and security review commission, has China expertise that would be a bonus to a Biden administration keen on working with allies to press Beijing towards reforming its trading practices.

Katherine Tai, the chief trade counsel to the House Ways and Means committee, is a former USTR lawyer who was chief counsel for China trade enforcement. She is widely respected by Democrats on Capitol Hill, and might help unite the progressive and moderate wings of the party.

Jimmy Gomez, a California congressman, played an active role in helping to negotiate stronger labour provisions in the US-Mexico-Canada trade agreement. His appointment would signal that Mr Biden wants a political player who can uphold core Democratic trade values like labour rights and environmental protections, while also operating smoothly on Capitol Hill.


Sally Yates, a former deputy attorney-general, became prominent in 2017 as acting head of the justice department under Donald Trump when he fired her for refusing to defend his travel ban in court. She is seen as a safe pair of hands who would uphold the independence of the department.

Sally Yates © AFP/Getty Images
Doug Jones © AP

Doug Jones, an Alabama Democratic senator who was beaten in last week’s election, is an old friend of Mr Biden. He was a US attorney in the Clinton administration and has worked on civil rights, including prosecuting two Ku Klux Klan members for the Birmingham church bombing in 1963.

Reporting by James Politi, Kadhim Shubber, Katrina Manson, Aime Williams and Demetri Sevastopulo

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