WILMINGTON, Del. (Reuters) - U.S. President-elect Joe Biden and his aides have spent months gearing up for his transition to the White House, assembling a team that will grow to include several hundred staff members as the Democrat steps into a role he’s pursued for decades.
These are the key advisers that Biden will rely upon and consider for top posts in his new administration, according to people briefed on Biden’s early plans:
Biden has long kept a tight inner circle on whom he relies for strategic advice, including his family members and his chiefs of staff during his White House years as Barack Obama’s vice president, Ron Klain, Steve Ricchetti and Bruce Reed.
Klain, a political tactician who also ran the Obama administration’s response to an Ebola outbreak in 2014, is widely seen as a leading choice to be Biden’s initial chief of staff. The person in that job usually plays a key role in setting the president’s agenda, political priorities and day-to-day activities.
Prominent roles are also likely for Congressman Cedric Richmond of Louisiana and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, who co-chaired Biden’s campaign.
Biden’s No. 1 policy priority is getting the coronavirus pandemic under control. He has promised that he will ask Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top U.S. infectious diseases expert who has clashed with President Donald Trump, to stay on in his role. During Biden’s campaign he turned most often for briefings on the pandemic to former Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, who is also expected to play a role in the new administration.
Biden has said his other key priority will be stimulus and relief to get the economy back on track. He has a host of top economic positions to fill in his administration, including Secretary of the Treasury, where Federal Reserve Governor Lael Brainard and former Treasury deputy secretary Sarah Bloom Raskin are seen as top contenders.
Biden’s selection for the post must be approved by the U.S. Senate, which may still be in Republican hands depending on the outcome of two Georgia runoff elections in January. That could threaten the chances of progressive candidates for this and other roles, including U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, despite her background in financial regulation.
Biden is also expected to tap some of his longtime economic advisers at the White House and on the campaign trail, including Jared Bernstein and Ben Harris, for key economic advisory positions. Both have advocated for aggressive stimulus to prime the economy.
Biden’s team has also tapped KeyBank NA executive Don Graves to work on a broad economic agency review and former derivatives market regulator Gary Gensler to focus on market regulatory agencies.
Biden promises to reset relationships with allies and adversaries abroad early in his term. He is expected to turn to long-time personal aides for help on this task, too.
Antony Blinken, one of Biden’s closest advisers on the campaign, is being considered for national security adviser or Secretary of State. Blinken was a staffer for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee long chaired by Biden, advised his 2008 presidential campaign and served as the vice president’s national security adviser in the White House. He has advocated a forceful leadership role for the United States abroad to confront possible adversaries such as China while also stressing opportunities for cooperation with other countries. Jake Sullivan, another top policy aide for the campaign, is also being considered for an international relations post.
Susan Rice, who was vetted to be Biden’s running mate, is considered a top pick for Secretary of State as well despite conflict with Republicans over her role in the aftermath of the 2012 militant attack on the U.S. mission on Benghazi, Libya. So, too, is one of Biden’s biggest supporters in the Senate, Chris Coons of Delaware.
Michèle Flournoy, a former top U.S. Department of Defense official who co-founded a consulting firm with Blinken, is considered a top pick to run the Pentagon.
Biden’s team is considering the possibility of naming a “climate czar” to deliver on the promises that the president-elect made during his campaign to tackle the issue.
Possibilities for that role include longtime Biden friend and former Senator John Kerry as well as Brian Deese, both of whom helped negotiate the Paris climate deal that Biden wants to re-join. Another possibility is Washington state Governor Jay Inslee, who ran against Biden in the Democratic primary on a climate change platform before advising the former vice president.
Another key climate-related role is Environmental Protection Agency administrator, where candidates include clean air activist Heather Toney, former Office of Management and Budget deputy director Ali Zaidi and California Air Resources Board chair Mary Nichols.
Reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt, Valerie Volcovici, David Brunnstrom, Koh Gui Qing, Matt Spetalnick and Mark Hosenball; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama
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