Who are the contenders for Joe Biden’s Cabinet?

Pictured: Joe Biden delivers a speech in Wilmington, Delaware, on July 28, 2020.

President-elect Joe Biden has signaled his intention to draw from a diverse cross section of America in building his Cabinet. Unlike President Donald Trump’s Cabinet, which is more white and male than any in nearly 40 years, Biden’s list of likely top advisers promises to reflect 21st-century sensibilities.

“Across the board — from our classrooms to our courtrooms to the president’s Cabinet — we have to make sure that our leadership and our institutions actually look like America,” Biden wrote in an op-ed last summer.

In naming the group, Biden must appease progressives within his own party while gaining support from Republicans who may still control the Senate. Biden is likely to include Republicans in his Cabinet as he attempts to engineer a working relationship between the parties.

Biden’s transition team, led by former Sen. Ted Kaufman of Delaware, a longtime confidant, already has been working on a list of candidates.

These are names that have emerged as possible picks for posts.

Agriculture Department


Heidi Heitkamp

Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., speaks during a Senate Banking Committee hearing in Washington on May 24, 2018.

A former North Dakota senator who served on the Agriculture Committee, Heitkamp is a strong advocate for rural issues. She has criticized the Trump administration’s trade policies, which led to tariffs on soybean exports to China.


Amy Klobuchar

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., on Oct. 22, 2020, at the Capitol in Washington.

A Minnesota senator, former prosecutor in Minneapolis and candidate for the Democratic nomination, Klobuchar, who was at one point in contention for Biden’s running mate, has advocated increasing support for agricultural commodities, disaster programs and federal crop insurance. (Klobuchar has also been mentioned as a possible attorney general.)




Tom Donilon

Deputy National Security Adviser Tom Donilon listens as President Barack Obama speaks in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, Friday, Oct. 8, 2010. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

Donilon, who served as national security adviser under President Barack Obama, has been tied to Biden since 1987, when he worked on his first presidential campaign. A lawyer, he also oversaw the transition planning for the Clinton-Kaine campaign in 2016.


Avril Haines

A former deputy CIA director and former deputy national security adviser, Haines has held several posts at Columbia University since leaving the Obama administration. (Haines has also been mentioned as a candidate for director of national intelligence.)


Mike Morell

Morell is a former foreign service officer who served as both CIA deputy director and twice as its acting director. He is now in private business, chairing the geopolitical risk practice at Beacon Global Strategies, a consulting firm in Washington.


Defense Department


Tammy Duckworth

Democratic Illinois Sen. Tammy Duckworth

A former Army lieutenant colonel who lost both legs when her helicopter came under fire in Iraq in 2004, Duckworth, a senator from Illinois, was an assistant secretary of veterans affairs during the Obama administration. She was among women considered as Biden’s running mate. If appointed, she would become the first Thai American Cabinet member in addition to the first woman in the role of defense secretary. (Duckworth has also been mentioned as a potential secretary of veterans affairs.)


Michèle A. Flournoy

Flournoy, a former deputy assistant secretary of defense, is regarded as the leading choice for this job. Flournoy, who would be the first woman in this role, has advised Biden’s campaign on defense issues and is regarded as highly qualified. Her industry ties — she serves on the board of the defense contractor Booz Allen Hamilton — could annoy progressives.


Jeh Johnson

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 24: Jeh Johnson, Former Secretary, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, speaks onstage during the 2019 Concordia Annual Summit.

Johnson is a former secretary of homeland security who previously served as general counsel at the Pentagon. He would be the first Black secretary of defense. His membership on the board of the defense contractor Lockheed Martin could be a sticking point for progressives. (Johnson has also been mentioned as a candidate for attorney general and director of national intelligence.)


Director of National Intelligence


Susan M. Gordon

Gordon was a principal deputy director of national intelligence in the Trump administration, a post from which she resigned in 2019 after the president did not promote her to director of national intelligence. Gordon began her intelligence career nearly 40 years ago as an analyst at the CIA, rising to senior executive positions at the agency. (Gordon has also been mentioned as a possible CIA director.)


Lisa Monaco

The top adviser on homeland security to Obama, Monaco has had a long and varied government career. At the Justice Department, she was an assistant attorney general for national security and served as chief of staff to former FBI director Robert Mueller. She has long-standing ties to Biden, having worked during the 1990s on his Senate Judiciary Committee staff, where she helped craft the Violence Against Women Act.


Education Department


Lily Eskelsen García

A former teacher and former president of the National Education Association, a labor union, Eskelsen García ran for Congress in Utah in 1998 and campaigned for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential race.


Randi Weingarten

Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, talks during a news conference Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2020, in New York.

Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, is a former Brooklyn public high school teacher who previously served as president of the United Federation of Teachers.


Energy Department


Jay Inslee

Washington State Gov. Jay Inslee  addresses the media during a visit by Vice President Mike Pence on March 5, 2020, at Camp Murray adjacent to Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington.

After failing to gain traction in his presidential bid — in which climate change was his primary focus — Inslee was easily reelected to a third term as Washington’s governor. Environmental activists are promoting his name, pointing to his plan to close U.S. coal plants by 2030 and reach net-zero emissions by 2045. (Inslee has also been promoted for appointment as secretary of the interior or head of the Environmental Protection Agency.)


Ernest Moniz

A nuclear physicist, Moniz served in the Obama administration as energy secretary, a job that largely involves managing the country’s nuclear arsenal. He played a critical role in negotiating technical details of the Iran nuclear deal. Since leaving the administration, he has been chief executive of the Nuclear Threat Initiative, which works to prevent nuclear, biological and cyber attacks.


Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall

Sherwood-Randall is a professor at Georgia Tech who served in the Obama administration as deputy secretary of energy, where she managed the National Nuclear Security Administration and 17 federal laboratories. She also served as a White House adviser on weapons of mass destruction and arms control. During the Clinton administration, she worked as deputy assistant secretary of defense for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia.


Health and Human Services Department


Mandy Cohen

Dr. Mandy Cohen, Secretary of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, fields questions during a press briefing on the COVID-19 virus on Tuesday, Nov. 10, 2020 at the Emergency Operations Center in Raleigh, N.C. 'We are on shaky ground'; Cohen said as she referred to the spike in cases in North Carolina.

As the secretary of North Carolina’s Health and Human Services Department, Cohen is known for her ambitious effort to transform the way the state pays for health care. A physician, Cohen served as the chief operating officer at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in the Obama administration.


David Kessler

A former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, Kessler, a physician, was credited with tackling the tobacco industry and helping speed approval of more than a dozen drugs to treat HIV. In doing so, he worked closely with Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert.


Michelle Lujan Grisham

FILE - In this July 23, 2020, file photo, New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham gives her weekly update on COVID-19 in New Mexico iin Santa Fe, N.M.

Grisham, the governor of New Mexico and a former member of Congress, also previously served as Cabinet secretary for New Mexico’s departments of health and aging. Grisham, who was among those considered for Biden’s running mate, was recently appointed as one of five co-chairs of Biden’s transition team. (Grisham also has been mentioned as a possible interior secretary.)


Vivek Murthy

FILE - In this Feb. 4, 2014, photo, then U.S. Surgeon General appointee Dr. Vivek Murthy appears on Capitol Hill in Washington. Murthy has been named as co-chair by President-elect Joe Biden to his COVID-19 advisory board.

One of Biden’s top advisers on the coronavirus, Murthy is a former surgeon general and an outspoken advocate of more stringent gun control.


Homeland Security Department


Val Demings

U.S. Rep. Val Demings of Florida's 10th congressional district responds to supporters at her election night victory gathering, with her spouse Orange County Mayo Jerry Demings, at the Crowne Plaza hotel in Orlando, Tuesday, November 3, 2020.

Demings, a member of Congress from Florida, is a former Orlando police chief with a 27-year career in law enforcement. She was among the women considered by the Biden team as a running mate.


Alejandro Mayorkas

A Cuban American lawyer, Mayorkas was responsible for running Citizenship and Immigration Services at the department under Obama. He also served as a federal prosecutor in central California. Under Obama, Mayorkas was regarded as instrumental in negotiating a memorandum of understanding with Cuba.


Housing and Urban Development Department


Karen Bass

FILE - In this June 17, 2020, file photo, Rep. Karen Bass, D-Calif., speaks during a House Judiciary Committee markup of the Justice in Policing Act of 2020 on Capitol Hill in Washington.

Bass, a longtime member of Congress from California, chairs the Congressional Black Caucus. A community organizer before she entered politics, she is well-versed on the housing challenges facing her South Los Angeles district. She was among the women Biden considered as his running mate. (A physician assistant by training, Bass has also been mentioned as a potential secretary of health and human services.)


Alvin Brown

A former mayor of Jacksonville, Florida, Brown was an adviser to Andrew Cuomo during his tenure as secretary of housing and urban development, worked on the Clinton-Gore transition team, and served at the Commerce Department during the Clinton administration.


Maurice Jones

Jones, a top deputy at the department during the Obama administration, currently runs the Local Initiatives Support Corporation, a financial institution that makes loans and provides grants to assist underserved communities. Jones also served as Virginia’s secretary of commerce under Gov. Terry McAuliffe.


Keisha Lance Bottoms

FILE - In this Jan. 11, 2018, file photo, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms poses for a photo in her office in Atlanta.

The mayor of Atlanta, Bottoms has been a campaign surrogate for Biden and was among the women he considered as a running mate. Bottoms has made affordable housing a priority, proposing a $1 billion public-private initiative to improve access to housing in Atlanta.


Diane Yentel

Diane Yentel, National Low Income Housing Coalition

Yentel leads the National Low Income Housing Coalition, a Washington-based nonprofit group that successfully opposed many of Trump’s proposed cuts to federal housing programs.


Interior Department


Steve Bullock

FILE - In this Aug. 7, 2019 file photo, Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Montana Gov. Steve Bullock speaks at the National Press Club in Washington.

The governor of Montana, Bullock recently lost a close Senate race to Steve Daines, a Republican incumbent. Bullock has been active in environmental issues: In 2014, he signed an executive order creating a habitat for sage grouse, and as state attorney general he wrote an opinion guaranteeing access to public lands.


Deb Haaland

Rep. Deb Haaland, D-N.M., Native American Caucus co-chair, joined at right by Rep. Judy Chu, D-Calif., chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, speaks to reporters about the 2020 Census on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, March 5, 2020.

Indigenous groups are promoting New Mexico Rep. Haaland, a member of the Laguna Pueblo tribe. The Interior Department presides over millions of acres held in trust as tribal land. Haaland serves as vice chairwoman of the House Natural Resources Committee.


Martin Heinrich

Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., speaks during a Senate Intelligence Committee nomination hearing for Rep. John Ratcliffe, R-Texas, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, May. 5, 2020. The panel is considering Ratcliffe's nomination for director of national intelligence.

Yet another New Mexico resident mentioned for the interior job, Sen. Heinrich, an avid outdoorsman, has promoted the idea of developing a national outdoor recreation plan using federal lands.


Tom Udall

In this Feb. 5, 2020, file photo Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., speaks during a Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington.

A New Mexico senator who decided not to run for a third term, Udall has fought to protect federal property from oil and gas drilling and has promoted the designation of wilderness areas in New Mexico. If Udall is picked, he will be keeping up a family tradition: His father, Stewart Udall, served as interior secretary during the Kennedy and Johnson administrations.


Justice Department


Xavier Becerra

California Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra.

Becerra has developed a progressive track record as a California state official and during his career in Congress. He succeeded Vice President-elect Kamala Harris as California attorney general and is now widely viewed as a possible heir to her Senate seat.


Doug Jones

Sen. Doug Jones delivers his concession speech during his election night watch party, Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020, in Birmingham, Ala. Jones lost his seat to Republican Tommy Tuberville.

Following his unlikely Senate win in a special election in deep-red Alabama in 2017, Jones, a former federal prosecutor, was unable to hold on to his seat this year. He is widely admired within the party for pulling off that upset, as well as for his impeccable civil rights record. He is white, though, and some of Biden’s supporters may want the Justice Department in the hands of a Black or Latino attorney general.


Tom Perez

Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez addresses the final night of the virtual 2020 Democratic National Convention, Thursday, Aug. 20, 2020 in Milwaukee, Wisc.

The Democratic Party chairman, Perez has a long career in government, notably as secretary of labor and, earlier, as assistant attorney general for civil rights. In that role, he led a federal investigation of Trayvon Martin’s killing in Sanford, Florida, brought a lawsuit against Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio for a pattern of abuses against Latinos, and enforced civil rights laws for gay and transgender people. (Perez has also been mentioned as a candidate for labor secretary.)


Sally Yates

In this image from video, former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates speaks during the second night of the Democratic National Convention on Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020. (Democratic National Convention via AP)

Yates, a former U.S. attorney in Atlanta and deputy attorney general, briefly held the role of acting attorney general during the early weeks of the Trump administration. Her tenure lasted 10 days; she was fired for insubordination by Trump when she advised him that the Justice Department could not defend his ban on travel to the United States by citizens of several Muslim-majority countries.


Labor Department


Seth Harris

Harris, a former deputy labor secretary who served as acting secretary in 2013, also advised the Obama administration on legislation before the Senate. A lawyer, he is a fellow at Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations.


Andy Levin

Rep. Andy Levin, D-Mich., speaks as the House of Representatives debates the articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2019. (House Television via AP)

The Michigan congressman is a former labor organizer for the Service Employees International Union and later the AFL-CIO, where he was assistant director of organizing. He also worked as a staff lawyer in the Labor Department.


Bernie Sanders

Cuando Bernie Sanders, senador por Vermont, se retiró de la contienda, Biden acordó formar un conjunto de grupos de trabajo para formular una agenda de gobierno compartida.

The Vermont senator is interested in serving as labor secretary, according to a person close to him, and his camp and Biden’s team have been seriously discussing the possibility since he withdrew from the presidential race in April. There is no deal, and it is still unclear what role Sanders would play in a Biden administration.


Julie Su

Su is the secretary of California’s Labor and Workforce Development Agency and a former California labor commissioner. She is an expert on workers' rights and a past recipient of a MacArthur “genius” grant.


National Security Adviser


Antony Blinken

U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken is seen in this photo. EFE/Alex Cruz

An aide to Biden on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Blinken has served as Biden’s top foreign affairs adviser. He served as deputy secretary of state during the Obama administration, as well as deputy national security adviser. More recently, he has been managing director of the Penn Biden Center, an international policy center at the University of Pennsylvania. He has also been a contributing opinion writer for the The New York Times.


State Department


William J. Burns

Burns, president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, is a retired foreign service officer and former ambassador to Russia and Jordan. A former deputy secretary of state and special assistant to secretaries Warren Christopher and Madeleine Albright, he is also a contributing writer at The Atlantic.


Chris Coons

Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., speaks as the Senate Judiciary Committee hears from legal experts on the final day of the confirmation hearing for Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Oct. 15, 2020.

A leading member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Coons hails from Biden’s home state and is one of his closest friends. Coons would most likely be easily confirmed because of his collegial relations with Senate Republicans. One downside: Coons could be invaluable to Biden as a steward of his agenda on Capitol Hill.


Susan Rice

Ambassador Susan Rice, former U.S. National Security Adviser and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, speaking at The Center for American Progress CAP 2019 Ideas Conference in Washington, D.C., on May 22, 2019.

A former national security adviser, Rice was among the small group of women Biden considered for his running mate. Rice is a former assistant secretary of state and United Nations ambassador, and she is viewed as a leading expert on Africa.


Transportation Department


Eric Garcetti

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti speaks at a Los Angeles County Health Department press conference on the novel coronavirus, (COVID-19)on March 4, 2020 in Los Angeles, California.

The Los Angeles mayor has promoted the use of public transportation during his administration, purchasing a clean-air bus fleet and proposing fare-free bus and train rides. He has also released a plan to eliminate traffic deaths by 2025.


Treasury Department


Raphael Bostic

Raphael Bostic, president and chief executive officer of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, listens during a panel discussion at the Association for Public Policy Analysis & Management Fall Research conference in Chicago on Nov. 2, 2017.

The first African American and the first openly gay man to lead a regional Federal Reserve bank, Bostic is president of the Atlanta Fed. He previously worked as an economist for the Federal Reserve and served as a board member at Freddie Mac. Bostic is known for his argument that systemic racism damages the overall economy. No Black person has ever filled the job of Treasury secretary.


Lael Brainard

In this file photo, Lael Brainard, Member of the Board of Governors of the US Federal Reserve, addresses the audience of the "ECB Forum on Banking Supervision" at the headquarters of the European Central Bank (ECB) in Frankfurt am Main, western Germany, on November 4, 2015.

A member of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors and a former undersecretary at the Treasury Department, Brainard has voted against regulatory rollbacks and has warned that the economic risks caused by the coronavirus are not over. She has also urged the Fed to focus on climate change and its impact on the economy. Brainard is regarded as a moderate, and she has been criticized from the left for her reluctance to take a hard line on currency manipulation while at the Treasury.


Sarah Bloom Raskin

Sarah Bloom Raskin, a governor with the Federal Reserve system

A former deputy Treasury secretary and a former member of the Fed’s Board of Governors, Raskin also previously served as Maryland’s commissioner of financial regulation. She is a lawyer and a visiting professor at Duke University.


Elizabeth Warren

FILE -- Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) speaks at a news conference at the Capitol in Washington, Sept. 9, 2020. Many liberals are pushing Joe Biden to name Warren as treasury secretary.

A favorite of progressive groups, the Massachusetts senator, presidential candidate and former Obama adviser has spent her career advocating for pro-consumer financial reforms and stronger banking regulation. She spearheaded the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a federal watchdog agency, and was among those considered as Biden’s running mate. Given her progressive positions, Warren’s confirmation might not be assured in a Senate controlled by Republicans.


Janet L. Yellen

U.S. Federal Reserve Chair Janet L. Yellen

Well known because of her high-profile service as chair of the Federal Reserve from 2014 to 2018, Yellen was also president of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco and chair of the White House Council of Economic Advisers under President Bill Clinton. She is a labor economist who believes that government regulation and intervention are required to ensure that markets run efficiently.


Veterans Affairs Department


Pete Buttigieg

In a screenshot from the DNCC's livestream of the Democratic National Convention, former Mayor of South Bend, Indiana, Pete Buttigieg addresses the virtual convention on Thursday, Aug. 20, 2020.

Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, and a Democratic presidential candidate, is a former Navy officer who served in Afghanistan. As one of only two candidates for the Democratic nomination with military experience, Buttigieg, who is gay, was endorsed by a progressive group of veterans, VoteVets. (Buttigieg has also been mentioned as ambassador to the United Nations.)


Robert A. McDonald

A former veterans affairs secretary during the Obama administration, McDonald could be making a return to his old job. An Army veteran and a former chief executive of Procter & Gamble, during his administration he placed an emphasis on reducing homelessness among veterans.

Reporting was contributed by Julian Barnes, Katie Benner, Helene Cooper, Coral Davenport, Sydney Ember, Erica Green, Lara Jakes, Thomas Kaplan, Zolan Kanno-Youngs, Alan Rappeport, David Sanger, Stephanie Saul, Noam Scheiber, Eric Schmitt, Jeanna Smialek, Jennifer Steinhauer, Jim Tankersley and Glenn Thrush.

c.2020 The New York Times Company

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