As the president-elect aims to make his administration as diverse as the nation, Biden’s team is already working on a list of candidates.
As Bob Dylan sang in the early ’60s, “the times, they are a’changing.” The names of these women, who at some point were all considered by Biden as a running mate for his 2020 presidential bid, have emerged as possible picks to fill four key senior positions: secretary of state, treasury secretary, defense secretary, and attorney general.
“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,” Joe Biden wrote in an op-ed article last summer.
Led by former Sen. Ted Kaufman of Delaware, the president-elect’s team is already working on a list of candidates. With Kamala Harris—the first female Black vice president-elect of South Asian descent—at his side, Biden is getting ready to fulfill his campaign promise.
Tammy Duckworth, Defense Department
A senator from Illinois, Duckworth was assistant secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs during the Obama administration. If appointed, the former Army lieutenant colonel, who lost both legs when her Black Hawk helicopter was shot down in Iraq in 2004, would become the first woman and the first Thai American to fill the role of secretary of defense.
Duckworth is particularly focused on immigration policies and women’s rights. She also has spoken about how her family’s struggles with poverty continue to motivate her to fight for working families. A trailblazer, in 2018 Duckworth became the first Senator to give birth while serving in office, prompting a historic change in rules to allow senators to bring their infant children onto the Senate floor.
Elizabeth Warren, Treasury Department
The senator from Massachusetts spent most of Obama’s second term working with the progressive wing of the Democratic Party. A native of Oklahoma, Warren started working at 13 waiting tables at her aunt’s Mexican restaurant. She describes her upbringing as “kind of hanging on at the edges by our fingernails,” and remembers her mother’s hesitation to take her to the doctor when she was a child because of a lack of finances. She is a strong advocate for women, for pro-consumer financial reforms, and for stronger banking regulation, and led the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a federal watchdog agency.
Sally Yates, Justice Department
Yates, who served as deputy attorney general under Obama, was fired in 2017 for insubordination after refusing to defend Trump’s “Muslim ban,” which blocked travel from some Muslim-majority countries. Yates has a strong ally in Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, who has publicly praised the strong women who stood up to Trump. In 2017, Harris wrote on Twitter: “It is clear that the resistance to Trump’s radical agenda will be led by courageous women fighting for our future.” Yates is a former US attorney in Atlanta.
Susan Rice, State Department
A former national security advisor, assistant secretary of state and United Nations ambassador, the Washington, DC native is poised to become the fourth woman to fill the role of secretary of state after Madeleine Albright under Clinton; Condoleezza Rice under Bush; and Hillary Clinton under Obama.
Working as the director of international organizations and peacekeeping for the National Safety Council (NSC), in 1994 she visited Rwanda during a horrific genocide. This, she has said, forged her character and made her resolve that “even if you’re the last lone voice and you believe you’re right, it is worth every bit of energy you can throw into it.”
Rice aligns with Biden and Harris in her “deep” commitment to ensure that “quality health care is accessible to all.” Also like Biden and Harris, Rice believes that climate change “is an urgent, existential threat.”