Joe Biden’s team has been gearing up to undo some of Donald Trump’s most controversial policies with a raft of executive orders on day one.
Among other moves, the 46th US president will rejoin the Paris climate agreement and end the travel ban imposed on certain Muslim-majority countries. He has also vowed to revitalise a pandemic-stricken economy and rebuild relations with the US’s traditional allies, while confronting strategic rivals such as China and Russia.
Here are the main figures in Mr Biden’s administration — some of whom need to be confirmed by the Senate — who will help him achieve these goals.
Janet Yellen, nominee for Treasury secretary
Janet Yellen, 74, was the first woman to chair the US Federal Reserve, from 2014 to 2018, building on a career as one of the most successful labour market economists of her generation. Now Joe Biden wants to propel her to the top cabinet post overseeing the world’s largest economy and US financial markets.
Ms Yellen would be the first woman to hold the job. Given her record, Ms Yellen’s qualifications to lead the Treasury in the post-Donald Trump world are not in doubt. But officials who have crossed paths with her say she also brings a human touch to her decisions — a trait urgently needed with the virus-battered economy.
Antony Blinken, nominee for secretary of state
Joe Biden’s closest foreign policy adviser is a guitar-playing Beatles fanatic who first started promoting American values as a high-school student in Paris during the cold war.
Mr Blinken is a three-decade veteran of Democratic foreign policy circles, who first worked with Mr Biden in the Senate. A former speech writer for President Bill Clinton, Mr Blinken was national security adviser to Mr Biden when he was vice-president, before becoming deputy national security adviser to Barack Obama and deputy secretary of state.
While he believes in the promotion of democracy and human rights abroad, he is pragmatic and understands the limits of US foreign policy.
Lloyd Austin, nominee for defence secretary
The nomination of Lloyd Austin as defence secretary has run into early opposition from some lawmakers.
Mr Austin — who would be the first African-American to serve in the role if confirmed — is “uniquely qualified to take on the challenges and crises we face in the current moment”, Mr Biden said, underlining the role the retired four-star general would play in rolling out coronavirus vaccines and restoring US alliances.
However, politicians on both sides of the aisle have expressed concern over the pick, and experts warned against bucking the US tradition of civilian leadership at the Pentagon. Mr Austin retired from active military service four years ago, which put him at odds with a law stipulating the defence secretary must be out of uniform for at least seven years. Congress would need to grant him a waiver, which it has done only twice in 70 years, including for Jim Mattis, the first US defence secretary nominated by Mr Trump.
Merrick Garland, nominee for attorney-general
Joe Biden has chosen Merrick Garland, the federal appeals court judge whose nomination to the US Supreme Court was blocked by Republicans in 2016, to be attorney-general in his incoming administration.
If confirmed, Mr Garland, who sits on the US Court of Appeals in Washington DC, will lead the justice department in what has become one of the most politically charged government roles in the Trump administration. Mr Biden has described Mr Garland as “one of the most respected jurists of our time”, calling him “brilliant yet humble, distinguished yet modest, full of character and decency”.
Mr Biden has said that the storming of Capitol Hill by supporters of Donald Trump underlined the importance of his choice to run the justice department.
Xavier Becerra, nominee for secretary of health and human services
Mr Biden will put Xavier Becerra, the California attorney-general and former member of Congress, in charge of the US health department — an important position as the new administration tackles the virus emergency.
Mr Becerra is not a medical expert. But he has led the legal defence of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, after the Trump administration refused to defend it. If confirmed, he will be in his new role when the Supreme Court rules on whether the act is constitutional next spring.
He is also poised to become the first Latino to head up the department, helping Mr Biden get closer to his pledge to lead the most diverse cabinet in US history.
Alejandro Mayorkas, nominee for secretary of homeland security
Mr Mayorkas, who was born in Cuba, would be the first Latino head of the department of homeland security, which is responsible for implementing US immigration policy.
He would be likely to oversee an overhaul of the agency, expanding legal immigration and amnesty programmes.
Katherine Tai, nominee for US trade envoy
Joe Biden has nominated Katherine Tai, a senior Democratic trade adviser in the House of Representatives, as his top trade envoy. Ms Tai, who would be the first Asian-American woman to occupy the cabinet position, is widely respected by Democratic lawmakers from across the party’s ideological spectrum.
A lawyer who has previously worked for the USTR’s office overseeing China trade enforcement, Ms Tai is seen as a diplomatic character and credited with managing an array of competing interests to marshal the recent US-Mexico-Canada Agreement through Congress.
Although Mr Biden has said domestic investment will be a greater priority than signing new trade deals for his administration, the incoming USTR will need to repair fraying relationships with European capitals, decide how to deal with a range of existing tariffs on China and Europe, and press for the reform of the World Trade Organization.
White House appointees:
Ron Klain, White House chief of staff
Mr Biden has said that Mr Klain, a veteran adviser, had been “invaluable” to him over many years, including when the former US vice-president to Barack Obama was tasked with rescuing the economy in the wake of the 2007-08 financial crisis.
Mr Klain has worked for Mr Biden in different roles since 1986, when the former senator from Delaware served on the Senate judiciary committee. He was a top adviser to Mr Biden during the 2020 campaign as well as in 1988 and 2008, when Mr Biden ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic presidential nomination.
In addition to being chief of staff to Mr Biden as vice-president, Mr Klain was the White House Ebola response co-ordinator from 2014 to 2015. He has also served as chief of staff to former vice-president Al Gore.
Jake Sullivan, national security adviser
Jake Sullivan, Mr Biden’s pick to head the National Security Council, pledged to be “vigilant in the face of enduring threats, from nuclear weapons to terrorism”.
But Mr Sullivan — a former Hillary Clinton aide who helped craft the 2015 Iran nuclear deal that Mr Trump pulled out of — has also said that Mr Biden had set him the task of “reimagining our national security” so that foreign policy decisions delivered “for working families” in the US.
He has already been vocal on China attacking freedom in Hong Kong, in a sign that the Biden administration will take a critical stance towards Beijing over human rights and democracy.
Brian Deese, director of the National Economic Council
Brian Deese, a former Obama administration official who worked on sustainable investing at BlackRock, the fund manager, will head the National Economic Council in Mr Biden’s White House.
Susan Rice, domestic policy adviser
Susan Rice’s appointment to run the White House domestic policy council is an unexpected move that gives the former national security adviser a critical role in setting economic policy.
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. The White House position does not require Senate confirmation.
The Biden transition team has said Ms Rice will 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.
John Kerry, special envoy for climate
The National Security Council will break new ground with the appointment of John Kerry to a dedicated role tackling climate change.
The mission given to the former Obama-era secretary of state, who helped to orchestrate the 2015 Paris climate accord, signals the issue will rise to the top of the US policy agenda, even as the Biden administration could face an uphill battle to enact its environmental goals domestically.
Mr Kerry’s involvement in climate change policy dates back to 1992 when he was a member of the US delegation led by Al Gore at the first Rio Earth summit, where the framework was set for the Paris agreement. Mr Trump orchestrated the withdrawal of the US from that accord last year, but Mr Biden has vowed that the US will re-enter it on his first day in office. Mr Kerry’s appointment does not require Senate confirmation.
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