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Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

If Joe Biden wins the presidency, his advisers plan to assemble the most diverse Cabinet in U.S. history as he works to fulfill a pledge to build the Democratic Party on a new generation of leaders.

The big picture: Many of Biden's longtime aides, most of whom are white and male, are expected to follow him to the West Wing. That means the pressure will be on to recruit a Cabinet that's both younger and more diverse.

  • Biden confidants tell Axios that several women and people of color are under consideration for top posts at State, Defense, Treasury and Justice.

What we’re hearing: Though Biden's team is talking about infusing the Democratic Party with fresh faces, many of these potential picks also served under Barack Obama or are well known figures in the party.

  • Michele Flournoy, who served as an under secretary for Defense in the Obama administration, is widely regarded as the front runner for the Pentagon.
  • Jeh Johnson, who served as Obama's second secretary at the Department of Homeland Security, could get the top job at Defense, where he also was general counsel in Obama's first term.
  • Sen. Tammy Duckworth, who was considered for Biden's VP, is also a possibility to head the Pentagon, or the Department of Veterans Affairs.
  • Former national security adviser Susan Rice, who was also a VP finalist, could be in the mix for State, the Department of Homeland Security and the Pentagon.
  • Former acting Attorney General Sally Yates, former Georgia House minority leader Stacey Abrams and Sen. Elizabeth Warren are among those who may be considered to head the Justice Department.

While there has been a lot of speculation around Warren leading Treasury, we have heard that's not the most likely scenario.

  • But at least three other women's names are on our radar: Janet Yellen, who under Obama became the first female Fed chair; Lael Brainard, a current Fed Governor who served in the Clinton and Obama administrations; and Sarah Bloom Raskin, who served on the Fed and as deputy Treasury secretary under Obama.

Two Black economists are also in the Treasury mix: TIAA president and CEO Roger Ferguson, and Raphael Bostic, president of the Atlanta Fed. Either also could be in the mix to replace Jerome Powell as Fed Chair when his term is up in the summer of 2021.

  • Rep. Cedric Richmond, a former leader of the Congressional Black Caucus who signed on as Biden's campaign co-chairman in May 2019, is another potential cabinet pick.
  • New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham, another VP candidate, could also find herself in the cabinet.
  • Lisa Cook, an African American economist at Michigan State University, could be the first African American female to head the Council of Economic Advisers.

What they are saying: "Joe Biden is running a campaign that mirrors our diversity as a nation," said Andrew Bates, a Biden campaign spokesman.

Between the lines: In Biden’s world, friendships are measured in decades, not years. Breaking into Biden’s inner circle has always been a challenge — and that's been made even more difficult by the pandemic.

  • Cabinet members will want to know they'll have real decision-making authority and access to Biden, and not just cosmetic roles.
  • In Obama’s White House, many key decisions were made in the West Wing, and left to implement by the agencies. President Trump has taken that dynamic to new levels.

The intrigue: Biden's team worked throughout the summer to add more people of color to his campaign. As of mid-September, 46% of his staff were people of color, up from 35% in early June, campaign officials tell Axios.

  • Biden senior adviser Symone Sanders, a 30-year-old African American woman who was Bernie Sanders' press secretary in his 2016 presidential bid, travels with Biden and brings a progressive voice to the table.
  • Biden also values the political judgment of Rep. Jim Clyburn and will consult him on how to fill out his Cabinet.

Go deeper

Senate confirms retired Gen. Lloyd Austin as defense secretary

Photo: Greg Nash-Pool/Getty Images

The Senate voted 93-2 on Friday to confirm retired Gen. Lloyd Austin as secretary of defense. Sens. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) were the sole "no" votes.

Why it matters: Austin is the first Black American to lead the Pentagon and President Biden's second Cabinet nominee to be confirmed.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
Jan 22, 2021 - Politics & Policy

New Energy Department roles look to animate Biden's campaign themes

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

The burst of Biden administration staffing picks announced yesterday revealed that the Energy Department (DOE) has newly created roles that reflect what President Biden called campaign priorities.

Driving the news: One new position is "director of energy jobs," which is being filled by Jennifer Jean Kropke. She was previously the first director of workforce and environmental engagement with Local 11 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.

Updated Jan 21, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Congress grants waiver for retired Gen. Lloyd Austin to lead Pentagon

Defense Secretary nominee Lloyd Austin. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Both chambers of Congress on Thursday voted to grant retired Gen. Lloyd Austin a waiver to lead the Pentagon, clearing the path to confirmation for President Biden's nominee for defense secretary.

Why it matters: Austin's nomination received pushback from some lawmakers, including Democrats, who cited a law that requires officers be out of the military for at least seven years before taking the job — a statute intended to reinforce the tradition of civilian control of the Pentagon.