Politics

14 Women In The Running For Joe Biden’s Cabinet

With rumored contenders like Sally Yates and Rep. Deb Haaland, his Cabinet could be the country's most diverse.

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In the coming weeks, Joe Biden will start announcing appointments to his Cabinet, some of whose positions will require Senate approval. His team is reportedly hard at work putting together a shortlist of contenders to head each department in the executive branch, and CNN reports that some names could be announced around Thanksgiving.

Appeasing a heavily divided country by way of Cabinet picks is no small task. His cohort will likely be more diverse than his predecessor's, as Trump's Cabinet was the most white and male since Reagan's. If he nominates 50% women, as recommended by the Washington's Post's Monica Hesse, he would best both Presidents Obama and George W. Bush, whose cabinets had seven and five women, respectively. (The Cabinet traditionally includes the vice president and 15 heads of departments.)

His prior work sets him up for gender parity. After the police killing of George Floyd, Biden penned an op-ed for USA Today, in which he called for more diversity in the presidential Cabinet. “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,” he wrote in June. Here are some of the women rumored to be on his shortlist.

1
Karen Bass, Secretary of Health and Human Services
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Before serving as a California congresswoman, Bass worked for almost a decade as a physician assistant. Her health care background is one of reasons that The New York Times considers her a possibility for the secretary of health and human services. Throughout her decade in the U.S. House, Bass — who leads the Congressional Black Caucus and was considered to be Biden's running mate — has focused on issues of race and income inequality.

2
Keisha Lance Bottoms, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development
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Another pull from Biden’s list of VP contenders, the Atlanta mayor made headlines during June's Black Lives Matter movement for being outspoken on racial justice issues. Since winning the mayoral election in 2017, Lance Bottoms has prioritized affordable housing. Prior to her current role, she served as a judge and as an Atlanta city councilwoman.

3
Val Demings, Secretary of Homeland Security
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Before serving as a Florida congresswoman, the former Orlando police chief had a 27-year career in law enforcement. In the House, Demings — another VP contender — has served on several committees and caucuses related to security and intelligence.

4
Tammy Duckworth, Secretary of Defense
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Sen. Duckworth is an Army veteran who served in the Iraq War. In addition to her combat experience, the Illinois congresswoman is a longtime advocate for veterans affairs. (Like the women above, she was also on Biden’s list of potential running mates.) If nominated, she’d be the first Thai American in the Cabinet and the first woman to serve as secretary of defense.

5
Michèle A. Flournoy, Secretary of Defense
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Flournoy is a Washington D.C. mainstay, having served as deputy assistant secretary of defense under President Bill Clinton and as under secretary of defense for policy under President Obama. (In the latter role, she was the highest-ranking woman in the Pentagon.) If nominated, which The New York Times sees as likely, the Harvard alumna would be the first woman to serve as secretary of defense.

6
Lily Eskelsen García, Secretary of Education
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For two decades, García worked as an elementary school teacher in Utah, having entered schools originally as a lunch lady. After an unsuccessful congressional run in 1998, she cemented her career in education advocacy and reform, ultimately serving as the president of the National Education Association. Politico has called her a favorite for this role, alongside leaders in the field such as Randi Weingarten and Linda Darling-Hammond.

7
Deb Haaland, Secretary of the Interior
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When she was elected to the House in 2018, the New Mexico representative became one of the first Native American women elected to Congress. Haaland, who's already told the Huffington Post that she’d gladly take the role if offered, is the vice chairwoman of the House of Natural Resources Committee. The Department of the Interior oversees land conservation and heritage programs. "The symbolism alone, yes, it’s profound,” she told the Huffington Post about the significance of an Indigenous woman in such a role.

8
Avril Haines, CIA Director
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Haines was the first woman to serve as deputy CIA director, which she did starting in 2013. But the accomplished academic had a roundabout path to politics: She studied physics in undergrad and then founded and ran a bookstore cafe for five years, ultimately completing law school at Georgetown University and clerking in the U.S. Court of Appeals.

9
Heidi Heitkamp, Secretary of Agriculture
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Before serving North Dakota in Congress, the one-term senator worked for the Environmental Protection Agency and served as North Dakota's attorney general. While in office, she served on the Agriculture Committee and helped pass two farm bills through Congress. Since then, she founded the One Country Project, which aims to better connect politicians with rural communities.

10
Amy Klobuchar, Secretary of Agriculture
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Sen. Klobuchar is another contender to lead the Department of Agriculture. (The New York Times reports she’s also a contender for attorney general.) In Congress, the Minnesotan has advocated for rural communities, and as she ran against Biden for the Democratic nomination, she’s already familiar with his platform and policies.

11
Susan Rice, Secretary of State
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Rice is a leading contender to be Biden’s secretary of state, having also been on his VP shortlist. She was a national security adviser for President Obama, and is considered an experienced diplomat and an expert on foreign policy. (Her involvement in the 2012 Benghazi tragedy, in which four Americans were killed, could invite scrutiny to the pick.)

12
Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall, Secretary of Energy
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During the Obama administration, Sherwood-Randall served as deputy secretary of energy, a step up from previous White House roles in the Obama and Clinton administrations, such as an adviser on weapons of mass destruction and arms control, and a deputy assistant secretary of defense. She knows Biden well, having been his chief adviser on foreign and defense policy right out of grad school at Oxford University, where she was a Rhodes Scholar.

13
Elizabeth Warren, Secretary of the Treasury
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It’s no surprise that Sen. Warren, a progressive favorite who ran against Biden for the Democratic nomination, is a Cabinet prospect. Politico reports that Warren, a staunch advocate for economic equality, wants the job, in part because it would allow her to implement some of the economic reform she campaigned on during her presidential bid.

14
Sally Yates, Attorney General
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When President Trump took office, Yates was the acting attorney general but lasted just 10 days. In January 2017, she was fired for refusing to defend Trump’s "Muslim ban." (In an internal memo, she said she wasn't convinced it was a "lawful" order.) A White House news release accused Yates, an Obama appointee, of "betraying" the Department of Justice.

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly reported the state that Rep. Deb Haaland represents. It has been updated.

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