On Jan. 20, President-elect Joe Biden took the oath of office, officially making him the 46th president of the United States. With his new presidency, he will bring in a new cabinet that will make history.
Consisting of 24 members, this will be the first presidential cabinet to have an equal number of men and women once their confirmations are confirmed. In addition to this, it is the most racially diverse cabinet that the nation has ever seen.
“The US is diverse as a whole. When we look at Congress and even the Judiciary, they have become more diverse and reflective of the US population. Diversity among the top officials in the cabinet departments should reflect this…By having a more diverse leadership, policies will then be more reflective and inclusive of our many communities,” said AP Government teacher Susan Clark.
Many of the cabinet members have also made history individually with their nominations, such as Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen. If confirmed, Yellen would be the first woman to hold the office of the Secretary of the Treasury. She first made her mark in history back in 2014 by becoming the first woman to chair the Federal Reserve.
Yellen is a Keynesian economist who is considered a “dove,” which means she is concerned with unemployment, weak growth and low-interest rates, rather than solely focusing on inflation and high-interest rates.
Yellen is well-known for helping deal with the 2008 Financial Crisis when she chaired the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.
As Secretary of the Treasury, Yellen would have to deal with improving another struggling economy as she did in 2008.
In addition to Yellen’s historic confirmation, retired four-star Army Gen. Lloyd Austin was nominated as Secretary of Defense.
Austin served in the Army from 1975 to 2016. He was the first African American to be a United States Central Commander after being appointed by former President Barack Obama in 2013. He was confirmed on Jan. 22 with a 93-2 vote in the Senate, making him the first African American to become Secretary of Defense.
To become Secretary of Defense, a nominee is required to be retired from the military for at least seven years unless Congress grants them a waiver. As of Jan. 12, 12 Senators declared they will vote no on this waiver. One of those Senators is state Sen. Richard Blumenthal.
“I have a lot of respect and admiration for General Austin…but I believe that a waiver for the 7 year rule would contravene the basic principle that there should be civilian control of non-political military,” said Blumenthal back in December.
Prior to Austin, the only Secretaries to receive this waiver were George Marshall in 1950 and most recently John Mattis back in 2017.
On Jan. 21, both houses passed Austin’s waiver, allowing him to proceed with his confirmation hearing.
President-elect Biden has also decided to nominate a more familiar name to many Americans: Chief Court of Appeals Judge Merrick Garland. Back in 2016, Sen. Mitch McConnell turned down his nomination for the Supreme Court justice seat after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, stating that the next president should decide who should fill that seat.
If confirmed, Garland would become Attorney General for the United States and may have to deal with an investigation into Hunter Biden with the Department of Justice, as well as looking into the Trump family and their role in the recent Capitol Riot.
Biden and Garland also both have plans to take on racial issues during the next four years.
In addition to the members named above, Biden has nominated Connecticut’s own Miguel Cardona for Secretary of Education. Cardona has been the state’s Commissioner of Education since 2019, and if confirmed, he will have to deal with finding a solution to help bring students back to in-person learning, a goal that Biden has set for his first 100 days in office.
“Although he hasn’t been CT’s Commissioner of Education for very long, he was tasked (like many administrators and commissioners) with this extraordinary issue of the Pandemic. He has really made an impact on working to close achievement gaps in the state and I see that as a large goal for him to do that through the Department of Education across the country” said Clark.
The Senate came back to work on Jan. 19 to complete the confirmation hearings, which will continue into the next week.