Who might figure in Joe Biden's cabinet? Six names tipped for top jobs

Susan Rice, Michele Flournoy, Doug Jones, Lael Brainard, Vivek Murthy and Heidi Heitkamp are some of the most frequently mentioned in Washington

Susan Rice, Barack Obama’s ambassador to the UN and national security adviser, has been tipped for a top foreign or defense job.
Susan Rice, Barack Obama’s ambassador to the UN and national security adviser, has been tipped for a top foreign or defense job. Photograph: Mark Humphrey/AP
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Cabinet appointment speculation is a time-honored tradition in Washington DC – and despite everything else going on is US politics at the moment, 2020 is no different.

Donald Trump is refusing to concede he lost the election to Joe Biden, but that hasn’t stopped Biden’s team from taking steps to transition into the White House, resulting in the age-old parlor game of who could fill which cabinet slot.

The Biden team has kept its cards close to the chest but as is always the case, shortlists keep emerging. Below are some of the most commonly mentioned names for some of the most high-profile positions in the president-elect’s cabinet.

Susan Rice

Secretary of state or other top foreign or defense job

Rice is a longtime state department official who went on to serve stints as ambassador to the United Nations and national security adviser to President Barack Obama. More recently, she made it through several rounds of the vetting process to be Biden’s running mate before the former vice-president picked Kamala Harris. Rice has been mentioned for multiple high-profile foreign policy and defense jobs.

Michele Flournoy
Photograph: Yuri Gripas/Reuters

Michele Flournoy

Secretary of defense or other national security post

Flournoy is one of the most commonly mentioned potential picks for a top national security or foreign policy position. If appointed secretary of defense, she would be the first woman in that role. During the Obama administration she served as the under secretary for defense policy. She also co-founded the influential Center for a New American Security thinktank.

Doug Jones
Photograph: Patrick Semansky/AP

Doug Jones

Possible attorney general

Even before he lost his re-election campaign, the outgoing Alabama senator Doug Jones had been mentioned publicly and privately as a possible attorney general. Jones is a longtime friend of Biden’s and a former US attorney who made a name for himself by prosecuting Ku Klux Klansmen involved in the 1963 16th Street Baptist church bombing. He was also involved in Democratic political circles in Alabama, and Birmingham in particular, where he lives. Jones has brushed off questions about serving in a Biden administration but that was largely before he lost re-election. Now, it’s unclear what Jones wants to do next.

Lael brainard
Photograph: Cliff Owen/AP

Lael Brainard

Candidate for secretary of the treasury

One of the cabinet positions under the most intense scrutiny is the secretary of the treasury. Progressives hope the Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren or former deputy treasury secretary Sarah Bloom Raskin could take the helm. But competing interests, such as the banking community and the Congressional Black Caucus, have put forth names as well. Brainard is something of a consensus candidate. She isn’t unpalatable to too many competing organizations and her credentials as a former treasury department official and member of the Federal Reserve board of governors make her a competitive candidate.

Heidi Heitkamp
Photograph: Rex/Shutterstock

Heidi Heitkamp

Contender for secretary of agriculture

Heitkamp is the most commonly mentioned candidate for secretary of agriculture, a role that covers far more than farm policy. Heitkamp is the last Democrat to serve as a senator from North Dakota and has been an outspoken advocate on rural issues and trade as it affects the farming community. As a senator she was a more moderate member of the Democratic caucus.

Photograph: Charles Dharapak/AP

Vivek Murthy

Department of Health and Human Services head?

A former surgeon general of the United States and a regular participant in discussion groups and policy advising for the Biden campaign, Dr Murthy was recently appointed as a co-chair of Biden’s Covid-19 advisory board, a lofty position for an incoming administration that is prioritizing a new response to Covid-19.