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The new faces of Biden’s Cabinet

By Elliott Nguyen
Staff Writer

The Senate is unveiling nominees for President Joseph Biden’s Cabinet, set to become the most diverse Cabinet in United States history. 

Confirmed:

Vice President Kamala Harris

(Photo: Senate Historical Office)

Kamala Devi Harris was sworn into office alongside President Biden on Jan. 20. Born Oct. 20, 1964 to Shyamala Gopalan and Donald J. Harris, she is both the first Black vice president and Asian vice president. She succeeds Mike Pence.

Prior to becoming vice president, Harris was known for serving as a senator of California from 2017 to 2021. Prior to that, she served as the state’s attorney general from 2011 to 2017.

Harris is a vocal supporter of strict Covid-19 protocols. During the Iowa Democratic Party Liberty and Justice Event in October, she said “Under (Biden’s) leadership we’re going to contain this virus, save lives and build our economy back better than ever before.”

Though Harris is a supporter of police and justice reform, her press secretary, Sabrina Singh, confirmed that “Joe Biden and Kamala Harris do not support defunding the police,” according to the Austin American-Statesman.

Harris has called for stronger gun control, including universal background checks and an assault weapons ban.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken

(Photo: U.S. Department of State)

Antony John Blinken assumed office Jan. 26. He was born April 16, 1962 to Judith and Donald M. Blinken and is Jewish. He succeeds Mike Pompeo.Blinken held several positions during the Obama administration, including deputy national security advisor from 2013 to 2015 and deputy secretary of state from 2015 to 2017.

With years of experience in foreign policy, one of Blinken’s notable stances is his belief in the value of America’s alliances with other countries. Since his confirmation as secretary of state, he has spoken with representatives from Japan, Mexico, Canada and South Korea. 

Blinken agrees with withdrawing troops from Middle Eastern military conflicts, though his and Biden’s strategy differs from that of the Trump administration. “We also need to distinguish between, for example, these endless wars with the large-scale, open-ended deployment of U.S. forces with, for example, discrete, small-scale, sustainable operations, maybe led by Special Forces to support local actors,” Blinken said.

Like Biden, Blinken supports the continuation of America’s close ties with Israel, and claims the Biden administration will consult the country in pursuing the denuclearization of Iran, according to the Times of Israel. 

Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen

(Photo: Official Federal Reserve)

Janet Louise Yellen assumed office on Jan. 26. Born Aug. 13, 1946 to Anna Ruth and Julius Yellen, the Polish-Jewish economist is the first woman to be the U.S. secretary of the treasury. She succeeds Steven Mnuchin.

Prior to serving as the U.S. secretary of the treasury, she was the chair of the Federal Reserve from 2014 to 2018, and was the first woman to hold that role as well. Additionally, she served as president of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco from 2004 to 2010.

She believes in stronger government regulation to help the economy function properly.

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin

Lloyd James Austin III assumed office on Jan. 22. He was born on Aug. 8, 1953 to Aletia Taylor Austin and Lloyd Austin Sr. He is the first Black secretary of defense, succeeding Mark Esper.

He previously served as the 12th commander of United States Central Command, also the first Black person to do so. In 2016, he retired at the rank of general from a 41-year career with the U.S. military.

Federal law requires former military members to have been retired for at least seven years to be eligible to serve as the U.S. secretary of defense. However, he was granted a congressional waiver to serve, as was James Mattis in 2017 and George Marshall in 1947.

On Jan. 27, he issued a statement pledging to support President Biden’s efforts to “include climate considerations as an essential element of our national security,” citing the impact environmental issues have had on operations in the past.

Awaiting Confirmation:

Attorney General Merrick Garland

Merrick Brian Garland was born Nov. 13, 1952 to Shirley and Cyril Garland. He is currently awaiting confirmation from the Senate. If confirmed, he will succeed Monty Wilkinson who has served in an acting capacity since President Biden’s inauguration.

Currently, Garland serves as a circuit judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, a position he has held since 1997.

On Jan. 26, Rep. Adriano Espaillat and 46 other lawmakers wrote a letter urging Garland to abolish the death penalty should he be confirmed.

Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland

Debra Anne Haaland was born Dec. 2, 1960 to Mary Toya and Major J. D. Haaland. She is an enrolled member of the Laguna Pueblo. If confirmed, she will succeed David Bernhardt and become the first Native American U.S. secretary of the interior, as well as the first Native American to hold any secretary position in the U.S. Cabinet.

Currently, Haaland is the U.S. Representative from New Mexico’s 1st congressional district, a position she has held since 2019. From 2015 to 2017, she was the chair of the New Mexico Democratic Party.

Haaland opposes fossil fuels and fracking, and supports the Green New Deal. She also advocates for the demilitarization of the police.

Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack

Thomas James Vilsack was born Dec. 13, 1950, and was adopted by Bud and Dolly Vilsack in 1951. If confirmed, he will succeed Sonny Perdue to become the 32nd U.S. secretary of agriculture.

Previously, Vilsack served as the secretary of agriculture for nearly the entire duration of Barack Obama’s presidency after being unanimously confirmed by the Senate in 2009. He was also the governor of Iowa from 1999 until 2007.

While serving as the secretary of agriculture, Vilsack contributed to the passing of the Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act.

Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo

Gina Marie Raimondo was born May 17, 1971 to Josephine and Joseph Raimondo. If confirmed, she will succeed Wilbur Ross. 

She has served as the Governor of Rhode Island since 2015, the first woman to do so. She has advocated for more affordable education.

Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh

Martin Joseph Walsh was born April 10, 1967 to Mary and John Walsh. If confirmed, he will succeed Eugene Scalia.

He is the mayor of Boston, a position he held since 2014. Prior to that, he served in the Massachusetts House of Representatives from 1997 to 2014.

As mayor of Boston, Walsh has spent much of his time improving the infrastructure in the city and helping to create apps like Boston’s Safest Driver and ParkBoston.

Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra

Xavier Becerra was born Jan. 26, 1958 to Maria Teresa and Manuel Guererro Becerra. If confirmed, he will succeed acting Secretary Norris Cochran to become both the first Latino and Democrat from California to hold the position.

Becerra is currently the attorney general of California, having held the position since 2017. He has previously represented Downtown Los Angeles in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1993 to 2017. He was also Chairman of the House Democratic Caucus from 2013 until 2017.

He played a large role in passing Obamacare in 2010, and defended it as California’s attorney general.

Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Marcia Fudge

Marcia Louise Fudge was born Oct. 29, 1952. If confirmed, she will succeed Ben Carson, and will be the second Black woman to hold the position, as well as the first woman since Patricia R. Harris who served under President Jimmy Carter.

She has been the U.S. Representative for Ohio’s 11th congressional district since 2008. Recently, she has cosponsored such bills as the Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans Act and the Washington, D.C. Admission Act.

Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg

Peter Paul Montgomery Buttigieg was born Jan. 19, 1982 to Jennifer Anne Montgomery and Joseph A. Buttigieg. He notably ran for President in the 2020 election, the first openly gay man to do so, but dropped out of the race on March 1, 2020. If confirmed, he will succeed Elaine Chao and Lana Hurdle to become the first openly gay U.S. secretary of transportation.

Buttigieg served as an intelligence officer in the United States Navy Reserve from 2009 until 2017. He earned the rank of lieutenant. He also served as the mayor of South Bend, Indiana from 2012 to 2020.

Buttigieg’s views include abolishing the death penalty, reducing student debt and raising the federal minimum wage to $15.

Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm

Jennifer Mulhern Granholm was born Feb. 5, 1959 to Shirley Alfreda and Victor Ivar Granholm. If confirmed, she will succeed Dan Brouillette.

Granholm previously served as Governor of Michigan from 2003 to 2011, the first woman to hold the position. She has also previously worked as the attorney general of Michigan from 1999 to 2003.

As Governor of Michigan, Granholm advocated for clean energy.

Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona

Miguel Angel Cardona was born July 11, 1975 to Sarah and Hector Manuel Cardona. If confirmed, he will succeed Betsy DeVos and Phil Rosenfelt.

Cardona is the commissioner of education for the state of Connecticut, a position he has held since 2019. In 2003, he became the youngest school principal in Connecticut.

He has pledged to work to lower student loan debt if confirmed. “I recognize as a first-generation college student myself the importance of higher education and the importance of making it accessible,” he said on WNPR’s “Where We Live” program.

Secretary of Veterans Affairs Denis McDonough

Denis Richard McDonough was born on Dec. 2, 1969. If confirmed, he will succeed Robert Wilkie.

He previously served as the White House Chief of Staff during President Obama’s second term. He also served as the Deputy National Security Advisor from 2010 until 2013.

During his confirmation hearing, he emphasized that he aims to help veterans through the Covid-19 pandemic.

Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas

Alejandro Nicholas Mayorkas was born Nov. 24, 1959. If confirmed, he will succeed acting Secretary David Pekoske and become the first Latino immigrant to hold the position.

Mayorkas has previously served as the Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services from 2009 to 2013, and Deputy secretary of homeland security from 2013 to 2016.

Mayorkas has previously expressed opposition to the kind of family separation that became practiced during the prior administration.

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