Factbox: Biden’s Cabinet appointees get their day in Congress

U.S. President-elect Joe Biden announces transportation secretary nominee Buttigieg at his transition headquarters in Wilmington, Delaware
U.S. President-elect Joe Biden listens as former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg, his nominee to be secretary of transportation, reacts to his nomination during a news conference at Biden’s transition headquarters in Wilmington, Delaware, U.S., December 16, 2020.
REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque/Pool

By Trevor Hunnicutt, Reuters

U.S. President-elect Joe Biden is set to take office on Wednesday with only a few of his top chosen deputies in place.

The Democrat’s Cabinet appointees are awaiting approval by the Senate, who are set to hold their first confirmation hearings on Tuesday. These are the officials set to be vetted in coming days.


Biden’s pick for Treasury secretary, Janet Yellen, will meet with the Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday at 10 a.m. EST (1500 GMT). The longtime economic policymaker is no stranger to testifying before lawmakers and would be the first person in history to have headed the Treasury, the Fed and the White House Council of Economic Advisers. She would also be the first woman to lead Treasury. The role would give her broad power over U.S. fiscal policy at a time when the economy is struggling, but Biden’s big-spending recovery plans and proposed tax hikes will be subjected to Republican scrutiny.


Avril Haines, a deputy national security adviser under former President Barack Obama and the first woman to serve as CIA deputy director, would take over a job created after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks to coordinate the work of the 17 U.S. intelligence agencies. Republican and Democratic Senate sources said Haines was expected to win confirmation but that she would face questions about her views on national security challenges, from Russia to cyber warfare. Her hearing also takes place on Tuesday at 10 a.m. EST and will be held by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.


The Senate’s Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs panel will interview Alejandro Mayorkas, a former federal prosecutor and a Cuban immigrant, for a crucial role overseeing Biden’s border security and emergency response agencies. Biden is preparing to present a proposed comprehensive reform of immigration laws to Congress when he takes office on Wednesday, a long-sought legislative achievement that has eluded presidents from both parties. The Department of Homeland Security, which Mayorkas would lead, has some 240,000 employees in areas from border patrol and customs enforcement to cybersecurity, disaster readiness and relief, including the U.S. Coast Guard and Secret Service. The hearing is slated for Tuesday at 10 a.m. EST.


Secretary of State nominee Antony Blinken is set for hearings at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, where he was once a staffer and Biden was once chairman, on Tuesday at 2 p.m. EST (1900 GMT). One of Biden’s closest and longest-serving policy aides, Blinken will face questions from Republicans who have accused Biden of being soft on China regarding key foreign policy challenges. Biden has vowed a clean break from Trump’s “America First” approach, including plans to rejoin a nuclear deal with Iran if the country returns to compliance, return to the Paris climate accord and stay in the World Health Organization.


Retired Army General Lloyd Austin headed the U.S. Central Command under Obama and would be the first Black defense secretary. He will be heard on his bid before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday at 3 p.m. EST (2000 GMT). He also needs the House of Representatives to waive a law that requires top brass to have hung up their uniforms for at least seven years. The House will hold its hearing on Thursday at 2 p.m. EST.


Biden’s onetime rival for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination – former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg – is nominated for transportation secretary. The department oversees aviation, highways, vehicles, pipelines and transit. Biden has proposed spending $20 billion immediately to help struggling U.S. transit systems that have seen a massive falloff in ridership amid the COVID-19 pandemic. He also wants to require face masks in interstate travel and spend $2 trillion overall on an infrastructure, climate and jobs program. The spending will require congressional approval. Buttigieg’s hearing will be held by the Senate’s Commerce, Science and Transportation panel on Thursday at 10 a.m. EST.


Former White House aide Denis McDonough, who served alongside Biden in Obama’s administration, is the incoming administration’s pick to lead Veterans Affairs. His selection caught some advocates for veterans off guard because he has never served in the armed forces. The department includes a vast health agency with more than 1,000 facilities. His hearing before the Senate Veterans’ Affairs committee takes place on Jan. 27 at 3 p.m. EST (2000 GMT).