Who’s who? Joe Biden names economic, comms and HR chiefs

By on 03/12/2020 | Updated on 03/12/2020
President-elect Joe Biden has named his top economic and communications leadership team. Credit: Gage Skidmore/Flickr

President-elect Joe Biden this week named his preferred economic and communications chiefs – unveiling a diverse team whose confirmation would shatter a number of glass ceilings – along with other key figures, including the first woman of colour to lead the Office of Management and Budget.

Biden had already set the tone for diversity with his foreign policy and national security nominations, and his latest announcements were no different. His advisers include the first all-female senior White House communications team, and Janet Yallen – set to become first woman ever to lead the Treasury Department.

The economic team is “tested and experienced”, he said. “It includes ground-breaking Americans who come from different backgrounds, but share my core economic vision.” He took the opportunity to emphasise his promise to build back better. “It’s time we invest in infrastructure, clean energy and climate change, manufacturing, and so much more,” he said. “And it’s time we address the structural inequalities in our economy that the pandemic has laid bare.”

The president-elect was pointed in his introduction of the communications team. “Communicating directly and truthfully to the American people is one of the most important duties of a president,” he said, “and this team will be entrusted with the tremendous responsibility of connecting the American people to the White House.”

Vice president-elect Kamala Harris added: “These communications professionals express our commitment to building a White House that reflects the very best of our nation.”

To the economic picks…

Janet Yellen is Biden’s nomination for Treasury secretary. If she is confirmed by the Senate, Yellen will be the first woman ever to lead the Treasury in its 231 years. This is not the first time she has broken a glass ceiling: she was also the first woman to chair the Federal Reserve. Indeed, if she is confirmed, she will become the first person to have served as Treasury Secretary, Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers – which she held under the Clinton administration – and Chair of the Federal Reserve.

The pick for deputy secretary of the Treasury also heralds another first: if Wally Adeyemo is confirmed, he will become the first African-American to hold the post. He played a key role in the Obama administration, serving as the president’s senior international economic adviser and other posts including deputy national security adviser.

Neera Tanden was named as the Biden-Harris administration’s selection for director of the Office of Management and Budget. She is currently the chief executive of the Center for American Progress, a public policy research and advocacy group, and has held a range of roles in government and on political campaigns.

Cecilia Rouse’s confirmation as chair of the Council of Economic Advisers would also herald a first for African-Americans. While Rouse is currently the dean of Princeton School of Public and International Affairs, she is no stranger to the council, having served as a member during the Obama administration. She was also a special assistant to Bill Clinton when he was president, and a member of the National Economic Council during his administration.

Other picks included Jared Bernstein, who was Biden’s chief economist during the Obama presidency, and his economic counsellor Heather Boushey, who are both nominated to become members of the Council of Economic Advisers.

Honest communicators

The all-female communications team starts with Kate Bedingfield, nominated as White House communications director after serving as deputy campaign manager and communications director on Biden’s presidential campaign. Bedingfield has experience of political communications, holding multiple roles in the Obama presidency, including serving as then-vice-president Biden’s communications director.

Jen Psaki is currently leading the confirmations team during the transition, but it is hoped she will become White House press secretary. This builds on her experience during the Obama administration, when she held a range of roles including White House communications director and deputy director. 

Harris’s choice as communications director for the vice president is Ashley Etienne, following her role as senior adviser to the Biden-Harris campaign. Etienne worked in the Obama administration, and more recently was communications director and senior adviser to Nancy Pelosi, speaker of the House of Representatives. Etienne was both the first female and the first person of colour to take this role.

Another former senior adviser on the campaign, Elizabeth Alexander, is tipped to become communications director for the First Lady. She has worked closely with Biden before, not just on his latest presidential campaign but also as both his press secretary during the Obama administration, and his communications director when he was a senator.

Other announcements include Karine Jean-Pierre as principal deputy press secretary; Symone Sanders as senior adviser and chief spokesperson for vice president Harris; and Pili Tobar, who is set to take the role of deputy White House communications director.

About Kate Hodge

Kate is a journalist and editor, holding roles at both the Guardian and the Financial Times. She specialised in education and combines writing, commissioning and editing with social media and audience engagement. If you have any ideas you would like to pitch, or suggestions to improve the website, feel free to email her on [email protected].

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