Scoop: Biden weighs Sam Power for USAID
Joe Biden is considering Samantha Power to head the United States Agency for International Development, which would place a high-profile figure atop foreign aid and coronavirus relief efforts, people familiar with the matter tell Axios.
Why it matters: Installing Power — a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and author of a Pulitzer Prize-winning book about genocide — would signal the Biden administration plans to revitalize foreign assistance and use it as an instrument of soft power and to achieve humanitarian goals.
Power was a prominent member of President Obama's cabinet and recently wrote a Foreign Affairs article about the president-elect headlined: "The Can-Do Power: America’s Advantage and Biden’s Chance."
- Biden hasn’t made a final decision on the position, and there could be other candidates — including those who were passed over for Cabinet positions — in the mix.
Power was featured in "The Final Year," a documentary about Obama's foreign policy team, and previously worked as a journalist covering conflict in the Balkans.
- Among the most pressing issues she would face would be rejoining the World Health Organization and managing America’s global response to COVID-19.
- “The Trump administration’s response to the most urgent problem in the world today — the coronavirus pandemic — has been worse than that of any other nation,” Power wrote in the Foreign Affairs piece.
The big picture: Power, currently a professor at Harvard’s Kennedy School, has been a leading advocate for using military force, when justified, to achieve humanitarian goals.
- USAID is an independent government agency but works in tandem with the State Department. The administrator's job requires Senate confirmation, but isn’t part of the Cabinet.
- The agency has been in the news lately because of the activities of its Trump appointees.
- Some Democrats, including former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, have advocated elevating it to a Cabinet-level position.
- Other potential contenders include Ertharin Cousin, a former executive director of the UN World Food Program, according to Foreign Policy.
- A Biden transition official declined to comment.
Flashback: In spring 2011, Power argued for a no-fly zone over Libya to prevent Moammar Gadhafi from his stated goal of slaughtering some of his own people.
- Then-Vice President Biden opposed the no-fly zone, but Obama eventually supported one, a move that led to the deterioration of the U.S.-Russia relationship.
Between the lines: Power’s husband, Cass Sunstein, who ran the highly influential Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs in Obama’s first term, could return to government, as well.
Editor's note: Adds detail about Power's journalism career and omits reference to Cameroon incident.