Dec 15, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Biden eyes last-minute Republican pick

Joe Biden and Sen. Kamala Harris

Joe Biden. Photo: JIM WATSON / Getty Images

President-elect Joe Biden is considering some well-known Republicans — think Meg Whitman types — for Commerce secretary as a way to signal to red-state Americans he understands their concerns and plans to address them.

The big picture: Biden's team is debating the political upside of an across-the-aisle pick, and it's still very possible the president-elect will settle on an all-Democratic Cabinet, according to people familiar with the matter.

  • For Commerce, he also could select a mostly apolitical CEO, like former Xerox CEO Ursula Burns, as a neutral way to reach out to the business community. The Commerce secretary is considered an administration's ambassador to the business world.

Why it matters: While Biden again promised Monday night to be a “president for all Americans,” his team hasn’t decided on a strategy to convince some of the 74 million Trump voters he will address their issues.

  • Democratic and progressive criticism of picking a Republican centers on the changing nature of the GOP, which has fully embraced President Trump — even during his election challenges.
  • Some possible Republican picks like Whitman, the former Hewlett Packard CEO, are considered RINOs, or traitors, by the new Republican base. She endorsed Biden.
  • Aside from short-term favorable media coverage, some Biden confidants are unconvinced there is a long-term benefit from selecting a Republican.

Flashback: President Obama nominated Republicans for the top jobs at the departments of Defense and Transportation, and initially named GOP Senator Judd Gregg to run Commerce. Gregg ultimately withdrew his name, citing differences over the stimulus package at that time.

  • President George W. Bush chose a former Democratic lawmaker, Norman Mineta, to be his Transportation secretary.
  • Trump didn't pick any Democratic politicians, though his daughter Ivanka and his first director of the National Economic Council, Gary Cohn, were registered Democrats.

Be Smart: While Biden and his team are working hard to satisfy all interest groups, the intensity of some of the advocacy — and a dwindling number of seats — may keep him from having room for a Republican in his Cabinet.

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