DemDaily: Your Guide to the Cabinet

November 23, 2020

The new Biden administration is well underway, with a rollout this week of the President-Elect's first picks.

Established in Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution, the Cabinet's role is to advise the President on any subject he may require relating to the duties of each member's respective office.

WH Chief of Staff Ron Klain was Biden's first Cabinet-Level appointment (Mark Wilson/Politico)

Traditionally, the president-elect announces his cabinet nominees between Thanksgiving and Christmas, in order to prepare for the transition and confirmation hearings, which will begin immediately after the new Senate is sworn in on January 3, 2021.

There are approximately 4,000 Presidential or "political" appointees, 1,270 of which require Senate approval, including Cabinet secretaries, agency directors and ambassadors.

The Cabinet includes the Vice President and the heads of 15 executive departments, which are responsible for the day-to-day enforcement and administration of federal laws.

Members of the Cabinet also fall in the presidential line of succession.

Other "Cabinet-level" positions in the current or past administrations include:

White House Chief of Staff
National Security Advisor
US Trade Representative
Director of National Intelligence
Director, Central Intelligence Agency
Director, Office of Management & Budget
Administrator, Environment Protection Agency
Administrator, Small Business Administration
Ambassador, US Mission to the United Nations
National Security Council Special Envoy on Climate

Additional positions, like Chair of the Council of Economic Advisors, were de-elevated from the Cabinet-level under Trump, but may change under the Biden administration.

The Nominees
This morning President-elect Biden announced his nominees for top national security positions, including: Secretary of State: Antony Blinken; National Security Advisor: Jake Sullivan; US Ambassador to the United Nations: Linda Thomas-Greenfield; Homeland Security Secretary: Alejandro Mayorkas; and Director of National Intelligence: Avril Haines. Former Secretary of State John Kerry, will fill a new position under the National Security Council, Special Envoy on Climate.

This afternoon former Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen was announced as Biden's Treasury Secretary.

Alejandro Mayorkas will be the first immigrant secretary and first Latino to lead Homeland Security (Brad Barnett/Getty)

The Status of Transition
While the hope is to confirm the top 15 Cabinet positions by Inauguration January 20, 2021, it may take up to six months to complete all Senate confirmations.

As a part of the transition, Agency Review Teams have been established, comprised of experienced professionals in policy areas across the federal government and sectors of the population that are tasked with ensuring a smooth transfer of power within each agency to the Biden-Harris administration.

Funding of their work and the rest of the transition is done through an appropriation by the General Services Administration, which has yet to officially "ascertain" that Biden is the winner of the election and release the subsequent money and materials for moving forward with the transition.

In response to a letter from House Leadership requesting an explanation by today, Trump's GSA Administrator Emily Murphy responded by assigning her Deputy to meet with lawmakers next week.

Tomorrow: A Deeper Dive on The Cabinet, who has been nominated and the contenders!

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Sources: Whitehouse.gov, Vox, MSNBC, Biden-Harris Transition

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