biden-harris transition
November 24, 2020

While President Trump says he will continue to challenge election results, his administration is simultaneously moving full steam ahead with the presidential transition.

The latest development, first reported by CNN, involves the White House granting formal approval for President-elect Joe Biden to receive the President's Daily Brief, a key step in the process. It's not exactly clear when Biden will first be briefed, but it appears it will be in the near future.

Receiving the intelligence briefings, which are prepared by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and contain information on matters of national security, is "typically one of the first rights of a presidential candidate after winning the election," CNN notes. Several lawmakers, including Republicans, have been calling for Biden to have access to the briefs in recent weeks to ensure that he's up to speed when he's sworn in on January 20. Read more at CNN. Tim O'Donnell

November 24, 2020

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) on Tuesday predicted President-elect Joe Biden's new hires for his incoming administration would be "polite and orderly caretakers of America's decline," facetiously citing how many members of the group have Ivy League degrees.

It's true that many of Biden's picks so far went to Ivy League schools, but Rubio's remark makes less sense when considering that the current White House is a similarly Ivy-infused crowd. President Trump himself went to the University of Pennsylvania, after all.

The GOP's critique that Democratic administrations are oversaturated with Ivy Leaguers isn't new. NBC News' Benjy Sarlin pointed out that Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), who has a Harvard degree, issued a similar complaint about former the Cabinet chosen by former President Barack Obama, who defeated him in the 2012 election. Tim O'Donnell

November 24, 2020

The conventional wisdom, Politico's Ryan Lizza reports, is that President-elect Joe Biden is stocking his White House with campaign officials and longtime aides. Frontline administration picks like Ron Klain, Jennifer O'Malley Dillon, and Antony Blinken, are all examples of that, but below the top level, discontent is reportedly growing.

Per Politico, there's a sense among original campaign staffers — those who signed on to Biden's team for the Democratic primaries and stuck with him while he struggled early in the contest — that Obama administration veterans are taking over the transition and will leave them behind.

"The Obama staffers are now cutting out the people who got Biden elected," an anonymous senior Biden official told Politico. "None of these people found the courage to help the [vice president] when he was running and now they are elevating their friends over the Biden people."

The longtime Biden campaign staffers also reportedly fear that later-arriving colleagues, who joined up after Dillon took over the campaign in March when Biden became the frontrunner, have priority. As another Biden adviser put it, "people who were not part of winning the hard-fought primary were placed before people who were part of that. If you noticed, [Dillon's] people are being taken care of." Read more at Politico. Tim O'Donnell

November 24, 2020

President-elect Joe Biden will start introducing his Cabinet picks Tuesday, and the consensus in Washington was perhaps best described by Brendan Buck, a former top aide to Republican House Speakers Paul Ryan and John Boehner:

Most of the names Biden announced Monday — Antony Blinken as secretary of state, Jake Sullivan as national security adviser, Alejandro Mayorkas as Homeland Security secretary, Avril Haines as director of national intelligence, Linda Thomas-Greenfield as U.N. ambassador, and Ron Klein as White House chief of staff — are career professionals little known outside Washington policy and politics circles, but well regarded within them. "By design, they seem meant to project a dutiful competence," The Washington Post reports.

Biden has also chosen some boldface names: John Kerry as international climate envoy and former Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen as treasury secretary. What ties them all together is the prospect of a Biden administration "filled with people who have deep experience in government and in the agencies they will be running," Jake Sherman and Anna Palmer write at Politico.

You can expect fewer impulsive tweets and more of "a linear, plodding, purposeful, and standard policy process" run "by political professionals who aren't likely to try to burn down the White House over petty disagreements and jockeying to get in the good graces of the president," Sherman and Palmer add. "In other words, if the Trump White House was like downing a vat of Tabasco sauce over the past four years, the Biden White House will be like sipping unflavored almond milk."

The selection process hasn't been entirely without drama, but "the relatively uncontroversial nature of these picks has been by design," Politico's Ryan Lizza reports. "Internally, Biden officials have been instructed to emphasize to reporters how normal the picks are, how 'these are tested leaders.' It's seen as a success if the Biden staff and Cabinet announcements don't make much news." Peter Weber

November 21, 2020

The Department of the Interior was essentially set up to tear down and disenfranchise Indigenous peoples, Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.), the chair of the House Natural Resources Committee, argued in an interview with The New York Times. So a Native American leading the department in the Biden administration would be "to come full circle," he said.

There's a big push for Biden to name Rep. Deb Haaland (D-N.M.), a citizen of the Laguna Pueblo in New Mexico, to the post, which the Times notes would "have undeniable symbolic power." If Haaland — or perhaps another Native American candidate like former Deputy Interior Secretary Michael Connor, who served in the Obama administration — were confirmed, it would mean that, for the first time in U.S. history, an Indigenous person would lead the department that oversee 500 million acres of public American land.

Per the Times, there are some people who are concerned Haaland, the popular choice, doesn't have the policy experience required for the role and would prefer Connor fill the post (a spokesman for President-elect Joe Biden's transition team said no personnel decisions have been made regarding the department), but if the job ultimately goes to either candidate, it would be historic.

"The Department of Interior was the driving force of modern day genocide against the Native American peoples," said Elizabeth Kronk Warner, dean and professor of law at the University of Utah, and a citizen of the Sault Ste. Marie tribe of Chippewa Indians. "We would be moving from the shadows of perpetuated genocide to a chair at the table, from being classified as a group of people that the federal government was trying to destroy to having a president say, 'I see you and value you to the point that I will raise you to the highest level of decision-making in the country.'" Read more at The New York Times. Tim O'Donnell

November 10, 2020

President-elect Joe Biden is getting ready for his inauguration even if the current occupants of the White House are not.

Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris held a press conference Tuesday outlining early plans for their administration. Biden affirmed President Trump's refusal to accept his win didn't affect transition plans, and that the still-undecided party makeup of the Senate wouldn't affect his Cabinet choices either.

It's still possible Democrats can gain control of the Senate by winning both of Georgia's Senate seats in their January runoff; Harris would then be the Democratic tiebreaker. But regardless of whether that happens, Biden says it won't affect his Cabinet picks, and that he'll have to negotiate with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to make some of his choices work. "I hope we're going to be able" to announced "at least a couple" of those nominees before Thanksgiving, Biden added.

Also on Tuesday, Biden and Harris announced their agency review teams tasked with facilitating a smooth transfer of power from the Trump administration to Biden's. The teams include hundreds of volunteers and a few paid employees who will figure out how executive agencies and cabinet departments function to allow Biden, Harris, and their cabinet to "hit the ground running on day one," the Biden transition team said. Kathryn Krawczyk

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