Tue. Mar 2nd, 2021

WASHINGTON — With the Trump administration having authorized the beginning of the formal transition process, President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. is slowly naming the individuals he hopes will guide him through his first term as president and help shape his thinking in the years ahead.

Mr. Biden has chosen cabinet nominees who are career officials and recognized experts in their fields, but they still face a confirmation process that has grown bitterly polarized. And the party that will hold the Senate during that process is not clear: Two runoffs in Georgia could tip the scales to Democrats. If Republicans retain control of the chamber, Mr. Biden’s nominees may face a tougher path to confirmation.

Yet with a cast of well-known nominees and a newly created position focused on climate change, Mr. Biden has already begun to telegraph some of the issues he intends to prioritize. Here are the advisers he has picked so far, and some contenders he may announce later on:

Secretary of State

In tapping Tony Blinken to serve as secretary of state, Mr. Biden appears determined to rebuild relationships with foreign leaders and international organizations that have atrophied under the isolationist policies that defined President Trump’s “America First” agenda.

If confirmed, Mr. Blinken will take charge of a State Department that has shrunk in size and stature under Mr. Trump, as staff reductions and resignations have thinned its ranks.

With his years of experience within the department, Mr. Blinken, 58, is well-versed in the mechanisms of diplomacy. He previously worked for the department under two previous administrations, including as deputy secretary of state under President Barack Obama.

In Mr. Blinken, Mr. Biden hopes to install a measured and well-credentialed negotiator who can both represent the United States internationally as well as restore a sense of purpose within the State Department.

Read more: The first tasks awaiting Tony Blinken.

National Security Adviser

Jake Sullivan, Mr. Biden’s pick to advise him on matters of national security, has been hailed in Washington as a gifted legal mind, one who has a long history of working with the president-elect.

Mr. Sullivan’s list of accomplishments is extensive. A Rhodes scholar and graduate of Yale Law School, Mr. Sullivan has built a lengthy résumé including a clerkship for Supreme Court Justice Stephen G. Breyer and work as chief counsel to Senator Amy Klobuchar, Democrat of Minnesota. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, whom he worked for as the department’s head of policy planning, has described him as a “once-in-a-generation talent.”

Mr. Sullivan has also worked closely with other members of Mr. Biden’s planned cabinet, succeeding Mr. Blinken as then-Vice President Biden’s national security adviser in 2013. Mr. Sullivan and Mr. Blinken maintain a close friendship and a shared philosophy about the United States’ role in the world that is expected to shape Mr. Biden’s approach in international affairs.

Read more: Biden picks a close confidante to head national security.

U.N. Ambassador

When Mr. Biden introduced some of his nominees on Tuesday, they seemed intent on fully repudiating the current administration’s “America First” isolationism.

“Diplomacy is back,” said Linda Thomas-Greenfield, Mr. Biden’s choice to represent the United States as ambassador to the United Nations. Mr. Biden plans to restore the post to cabinet-level status after Mr. Trump downgraded it, giving Ms. Thomas-Greenfield a seat on his National Security Council.

Ms. Thomas-Greenfield brings more than 35 years of experience in the foreign service, having worked as the U.S. ambassador to Liberia and served in posts in Switzerland, Pakistan, Kenya, Gambia, Nigeria and Jamaica.

Ms. Thomas-Greenfield has worked in the private sector as well. She was previously a senior vice president at the Albright Stonebridge Group, the consulting firm founded by former Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright, overseeing the firm’s Africa practice.

special presidential envoy for climate

Emphasizing his intent to address the global threat posed by climate change as a pillar of his policy agenda, Mr. Biden selected John Kerry, the former secretary of state, to take up a newly created cabinet-level position as his “climate czar.”

Mr. Kerry’s job will also carry with it a seat on the National Security Council, marking the first time that an adviser wholly dedicated to the issue of climate change will join the forum and placing him among other top advisers in the national security and foreign policy arena.

Mr. Kerry’s approach to the role is likely to be heavily informed by his experience working with other countries on agreements to set meaningful benchmarks on carbon emissions and encourage sustainable growth. While secretary of state under former President Barack Obama, Mr. Kerry was a chief negotiator for the United States on the Paris Agreement on climate change, which Mr. Biden has said he would recommit to on Day 1 of his administration.

Mr. Kerry will not have to face Senate confirmation, according to Mr. Biden’s transition team.

Read more: A cabinet-level voice on climate.

Treasury Secretary

Looking for a trusted economist to lead the country’s economy out of a pandemic-driven downturn, Mr. Biden has settled on Janet Yellen, the former chair of the Federal Reserve.

If confirmed, Ms. Yellen would be the first woman to lead the Treasury in its 231-year history.

During her stint as Fed chair from 2014 to 2018, Ms. Yellen oversaw a record-long economic expansion that would go on to drive unemployment down to its lowest rate in 50 years and which helped produce a thriving economy that was upended by the coronavirus pandemic.

In selecting Ms. Yellen, Mr. Biden appeared to have opted for a safe and proven name, and a candidate who is expected to survive the confirmation process with some ease, unlike other economists proposed by the Democratic Party’s progressive wing who may have been less acceptable to Republicans in the Senate.

Read more: The former Fed chair appears poised to lead the Treasury Department.

Director of National Intelligence

The first woman to potentially serve as the nation’s top intelligence official, Avril Haines comes with strong ties to the intelligence community, having served in both the Obama and George W. Bush administrations.

A trained physicist, Ms. Haines also helped oversee a number of covert programs at the National Security Council beginning in 2010 and then as deputy director of the Central Intelligence Agency from 2013 to 2015, including the controversial targeted killing program involving precision drone strikes, some of which killed civilians.

While Ms. Haines has received criticism from some progressives over her involvement in the drone program, her work to increase oversight of those operations, as well as her strong credentials in intelligence work, are expected to satisfy enough Senators to pave the way for her to be confirmed in what has traditionally been a nonpartisan role.

Read more: Progressives fret about Biden’s national intelligence pick.

SECRETARY OF Homeland Security

Following four years of immigration policy narrowly tailored to Mr. Trump’s personal whims, Mr. Biden has tapped Alejandro Mayorkas, a lawyer and former deputy homeland security secretary, to reorient the Department of Homeland Security.

A former director of the department’s legal immigration agency, Mr. Mayorkas will most likely be expected to roll back the Trump administration’s more punitive immigration policies in his new role. If confirmed, he would approach that task as the first immigrant to hold the position, as well as the first Latino.

Mr. Mayorkas faces the challenge of rebuilding an agency that suffered from unfilled vacancies and a chain of interim leaders in recent years, as well as one that has been embroiled in scandal over, among other issues, the Trump administration’s child separation policy.

Read more: The steep challenges ahead for Alejandro Mayorkas.

Though several of the key positions covering foreign policy and national security now have nominees, other consequential picks have yet to be announced, with pressure building on Mr. Biden from activists and interest groups in support of their preferred candidates.

A number of Democrats and liberal groups have spoken up in recent days in support of Representative Deb Haaland, Democrat of New Mexico, to lead the Interior Department. If selected and confirmed, Ms. Haaland would be the first Native American women to do so.

Mr. Biden’s team is said to have considered nominating Senator Bernie Sanders, the progressive independent from Vermont, to lead the Labor Department, a move that would please progressives but likely draw strong opposition from many Senate Republicans.

More than a dozen other positions are yet to be announced.

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