President-elect Biden seeks a diverse Cabinet. Here's who will join his administration and who might be top contenders

President-elect Joe Biden campaigned to have a government as diverse as America. After 36 years in the Senate and eight years as vice president, Biden now has an opportunity to tap a broad range of government officials and policy experts to lead the federal departments.

His commitment to nominating candidates of diverse backgrounds was reflected in several of his early announcements. He tapped Alejandro Mayorkas, a Cuban American, to become the first Latino head of the Department of Homeland Security; Avril Haines as the first female director of national intelligence and Linda Thomas-Greenfield, a Black woman, as his ambassador to the United Nations. 

After Biden's victory, much of the speculation about his potential appointments centered on high-profile figures, including several of his rivals in the Democratic primary and a number of sitting senators. But outside of 2004 Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry as a special envoy on climate change, few of Biden's initial picks were well known to the general public. 

What he said:Read what Joe Biden said in his first speech as president-elect

Broad support:The prominent Republicans who supported Biden

Joe Biden and Kamala Harris have pledged to run an administration that reflects the nation's diversity.

Norm Ornstein, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank, said with control of the Senate hinging on the runoff elections in Georgia, Biden  will likely be unable to place progressives such as Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Bernie Sanders of Vermont in his Cabinet.

“None of that is going to happen,” Ornstein said during an AEI panel on what to expect in the next administration. “I think under these circumstances you’re not likely to see any Democratic senators being chosen for the Cabinet.”

Here is a look at who he has picked and the top contenders for the open jobs. 

Chief of staff: Ron Klain

Biden has tapped Ron Klain as his White House chief of staff. Klain, 59, was a senior adviser to the Biden campaign. Her served as chief of staff to vice presidents Biden and Al Gore and headed the White House response to the Ebola epidemic in Africa during the Obama administration.

A close confidant of Biden, Klain had long been rumored for the post even before the election. 

In a statement, Biden said Klain's "deep, varied experience and capacity to work with people all across the political spectrum is precisely what I need in a White House chief of staff as we confront this moment of crisis and bring our country together again."

Secretary of State: Antony Blinken

Biden named Antony Blinken, a veteran foreign policy official and longtime confidant, as his choice for secretary of state.

Blinken, who held top-level national security and State Department positions during the Obama administration, has worked side-by-side with Biden on foreign policy issues for nearly two decades.

The move may disappoint some who wanted Biden to nominate Susan Rice, another longtime foreign policy hand and a Black woman, to lead the State Department. Biden has pledged to appoint a diverse Cabinet and tapping Rice would have sent an early signal of his commitment to fulfilling that pledge.

Treasury Secretary: Janet Yellen 

President-elect Joe Biden named Janet Yellen, the first woman to lead the Federal Reserve, to lead the Treasury Department. If she is confirmed, Yellen would become the first woman to head the department. 

Yellen became chair of the Federal Reserve System in February 2014 during the Obama administration, after serving more than three years as vice governor. She previously served as head of the Council of Economic Advisers to President Bill Clinton.

Yellen argued in August that Congress needed to approve additional stimulus to spur growth amid the coronavirus pandemic, as she wrote in an op-ed in the New York Times and told National Public Radio. As a member of the Climate Leadership Council, she supported taxing carbon emissions as the most efficient way to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

Homeland Security: Alejandro Mayorkas

Biden selected Alejandro Mayorkas, a Cuban American lawyer who ran Citizenship and Immigration Services before becoming deputy secretary of the department during the Obama administration, to head the Department of Homeland Security. If confirmed, Mayorkas would be the first Latino to run the department since it was established in 2003. 

Mayorkas, who arrived in the U.S. with his parents as refugees in 1960, would also be the first immigrant to head DHS, which has been at the center of several of President Donald Trump's controversial immigration policies. 

President Obama shakes hands with Deputy Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas after he administered the oath of allegiance during a naturalization ceremony for active duty service members and civilians on July 4, 2014, in the East Room of the White House.

Ambassador to the UN: Linda Thomas-Greenfield

Biden will nominate Linda Thomas-Greenfield, who served as the top U.S. diplomat overseeing African affairs in the Obama administration, to be his ambassador to the United Nations.

Biden's nomination of Thomas-Greenfield would elevate a Black woman and career foreign service official to the high-profile position. She would bring a markedly different tone and presence to the international body, which the Trump administration has derided and denigrated.

Tom Perriello, a former Democratic congressman and diplomat, tweeted that Thomas-Greenfield is "a diplomatic powerhouse respected around the world. I’ve witnessed her getting human rights activists freed and kleptocrats held accountable."

Director of National Intelligence: Avril Haines 

Biden nominated Avril Haines, a former deputy CIA director and deputy national security adviser, to become the first woman to lead the U.S. intelligence community as the director of national intelligence. 

Haines worked directly with the president-elect previously, serving as deputy chief counsel to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee from 2007 to 2008 when Biden was the committee's chairman. 

National security adviser: Jake Sullivan 

Biden tapped Jake Sullivan to serve as his national security adviser, a role he filled for Biden when he was vice president. Sullivan also previously served as deputy assistant to President Barack Obama and director of the policy planning staff at the State Department under Hillary Clinton.

Sullivan was a lead negotiator during the opening of the talks that led to the Iran nuclear deal, which Trump later pulled out of and which Biden hopes to revive. 

Climate change envoy: John Kerry 

Former Secretary of State John Kerry was tapped to serve as Biden's special presidential envoy. Kerry played a key role in crafting the Paris Climate Accord and signed the eventual agreement. 

The Paris accord was another international agreement entered during the Obama administration that Trump pulled the U.S. out of and that Biden hopes to rejoin. 

Justice Department 

Biden hasn't yet chosen his Justice Department chief, but a number of contenders have emerged.

  • Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee where she has been harshly critical of Attorney General William Barr. She dropped her presidential campaign after the South Carolina primary and endorsed Biden.
Democratic presidential hopefuls former Vice President Joe Biden and Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar speak after the tenth Democratic primary debate.
  • Sally Yates, a former deputy attorney general in the Obama administration, served briefly during the Trump administration transition as acting attorney general before she was fired for refusing to support the president’s ban on immigration from Muslim countries. In subsequent testimony before a Senate committee, Yates recounted how former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn opened himself to possible blackmail when he lied about his pre-inaugural contacts with a Russian ambassador.
  • Stacey Abrams, a former member of the Georgia Legislature who was among those considered as Biden’s running mate. Abrams has been a fierce advocate for voting rights after running an unsuccessful but high-profile campaign for governor of Georgia, a state Biden won.
  • Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee and presidential candidate, was a key sponsor of sweeping criminal justice legislation aimed at cutting mandatory minimum sentences and reducing the federal prison population.
  • Preet Bharara, a former chief federal prosecutor in Manhattan’s Southern District of New York, was fired by Trump after the then-newly elected president had asked him to remain on the job. Bharara subsequently described a series of contacts with Trump before his firing that he said threatened the Justice Department’s independence from the White House.

Defense Department

  • Michele Flournoy, a former undersecretary of Defense in the Obama administration . She is co-founder and managing partner of WestExec Advisors and co-founded the think tank Center for a New American Security, where she serves on the board.
  • Jeh Johnson, a lawyer who served as secretary of homeland security in the Obama administration and previously as general counsel at the Pentagon.
  • Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., a member of the Armed Services Committee and an Army National Guard veteran who lost her legs when her helicopter was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade in Iraq. Duckworth, whose mother is from Thailand, was assistant secretary of veterans affairs in the Obama administration.
  • Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., a longtime member of the Armed Services Committee who might be chosen if Republicans keep control of the Senate. Reed served in the Army in the 82nd Airborne Division as a platoon leader, company commander and battalion staff officer before becoming a professor at the U.S. Military Academy.
Rep. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill. is seen on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 3, 2013, as she poses with other female House members prior to the official opening of the 113th Congress.

Health and Human Services

  • Ezekiel Emanuel, the vice provost for global initiatives at the University of Pennsylvania who served as a health adviser to Biden's campaign. He was a special adviser for health policy in the White House Office of Management and Budget during the Obama administration.
  • Vivek Murthy, a trustee of the Rand Corp. and health adviser to Biden's campaign. Murthy, whose parents are from India, was surgeon general during the Obama administration.
  • New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, whom Biden considered as vice president, is the first Latina Democrat to the post. She previously was a state Cabinet secretary for the Department of Aging and Long-term Services from 2002 to 2004 and the Department of Health from 2004 to 2007.
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham of New Mexico speaks to viewers during the Democratic National Convention at the Wisconsin Center, Wednesday, Aug. 19.


  • Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., a progressive, self-described socialist who was Biden's chief rival during the primaries. Sanders has fought throughout his political career for issues such as expanding access to health care, raising the minimum wage and regulating workplace safety.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., speaks to the crowd at a car rally campaign event for Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden on Oct. 5, 2020, in Warren, Mich.
  • William Spriggs, a professor of economics at Howard University, chief economist to the AFL-CIO and former assistant secretary of labor during the Obama administration.
  • Sharon Block, the executive director of the Labor and Worklife Program at Harvard Law School and former senior counselor to the labor secretary during the Obama administration.


  • Randi Weingarten, the head of the American Federation of Teachers. She personally endorsed Warren during the primaries but organized virtual campaign events for Biden.
  • Lily Garcia, former head of the National Education Association . She serves on the president's advisory commission on educational excellence for Hispanics and is a board member of the Economic Policy Institute.
Presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren joins AFT President Randi Weingarten at Oscar Depriest Elementary School to support CPS teachers and staff on strike in Chicago on Oct. 22, 2019.


  • Eric Garcetti, whose father is Latino, is the mayor of Los Angeles and co-chairman of Biden's vice presidential search committee.
  • Beth Osborne, director of the advocacy group Transportation for America, who served as acting assistant secretary and deputy assistant secretary for transportation in the Obama administration. She has worked for lawmakers including Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del.

Housing and Urban Development

  • Eric Garcetti, mayor of Los Angeles and co-chairman of Biden's vice presidential search committee.
  • Rep. Karen Bass of California, who was considered as Biden's running mate. As speaker of the state Assembly, she became the first Black woman to lead a state legislative chamber.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, left, wears a facemask as he arrives for the 2020 vice presidential debate.


  • Heidi Heitkamp, a former senator from North Dakota who served on the Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee and who previously served as state attorney general.
In this Aug. 21, 2018 file photo, Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., left, and Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., speak on Capitol Hill in Washington. Both senators are from states President Trump won in 2016 and are being targeted to support Judge Brett Kavanaugh for the Supreme Court.
  • Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., the chairman of the House Agriculture Committee who lost is bid for reelection this year after 30 years in Congress. 
  • Rep. Marcia Fudge, D-Ohio, who heads the Agriculture subcommittee on nutrition and oversight.


  • Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, former member of the House representing the state, which includes several of the department's facilities.
  • Rep. Andy Levin, D-Mich., who was acting director of the Michigan Department of Energy, Labor and Economic Growth and a senior adviser at the AFL-CIO. 
Vice President Mike Pence greets Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, left, as Pence arrives, Thursday, March 5, 2020 at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state.


  • David Hayes, former deputy secretary of interior during the Obama and Clinton administrations. He is executive director of the State Energy and Environmental Impact Center at New York University Law School.
  • Sens. Martin Heinrich and Tom Udall of New Mexico, and former Sens. Mark Begich of Alaska and Mark Udall of Colorado.
  • Reps. Raul Grijalva of Arizona, a longstanding member of Congressional Hispanic Caucus who heads the Natural Resources Committee, and Deb Haaland, a registered member of the Native American tribe Pueblo of Laguna who serves on the Natural Resources Committee.
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, left, and Deputy Interior Secretary David Hayes, testify on Capitol Hill in Washington on May 26, 2010, before the House Natural Resources Committee.

Veterans Affairs

  • Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., an Army National Guard veteran who lost her legs when her helicopter was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade in Iraq. Duckworth served as assistant secretary of veterans affairs during the Obama administration.
  • Pete Buttigieg, former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, and a primary rival of Biden who served in the Navy Reserve and was deployed to Afghanistan. Buttigieg also has been mentioned as a potential U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.


  • Rohit Chopra, member of the Federal Trade Commission and former undersecretary of education during the Obama administration.
  • Susan Helper, an economics professor at Case Western Reserve University and former senior economist on Obama's Council of Economic Advisers and chief economist at the Commerce Department.

Central Intelligence Agency

  • Thomas E. Donilon, a former national security adviser in the Obama administration who oversaw the transition at the State Department.
  • • Michael Morell, a 30-year CIA veteran who served as the agency’s acting director and its deputy director from 2010 to 2013.
President Barack Obama, second from left, former aide Samantha Power, right, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice, third from left, and incumbent National Security Adviser Tom Donilon return to the Oval Office after a announcement at the Rose Garden of the White House on June 5, 2013

U.S. trade representative

  • Jennifer Hillman, who has extensive experience in trade and international economics as a former World Trade Organization judge and a onetime general counsel in the USTR’s office.
  • Miriam Sapiro, who served as deputy U.S. Trade Representative in the Obama administration.
  • Tom Nides, former deputy secretary of state who is now a managing director and vice chairman at Morgan Stanley, an investment bank.

Other White House staffers

Biden has named a number of other staffers to serve in his incoming administration:

  • Cedric Richmond, senior adviser and director of the White House Office of Public Engagement
  • Steve Ricchetti, counselor to the president 
  • Dana Remus, White House counsel
  • Jen O'Malley Dillon, deputy chief of staff 
  • Louisa Terrell, director of White House Office of Legislative Affairs
  • Reema Dodin, deputy director of the Office of Legislative Affairs
  • Shuwanza Goff,  deputy director of the Office of Legislative Affairs
  • Cathy Russell, director of the White House Office of Presidential Personnel
  • Mike Donilon, senior adviser to the president
  • Julie Rodriguez, director of the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs 
  • Carlos Elizondo, White House social secretary
  • Julissa Reynoso Pantaleon, chief of staff to first lady Jill Biden 
  • Mala Adiga, policy director for first lady Jill Biden
  • Anthony Bernal, senior adviser to first lady Jill Biden 

Contributing: Maureen Groppe, Kevin Johnson and Deirdre Shesgreen