Biden selects Vilsack for ag secretary, Fudge for HUD

December 11, 2020: Joe Biden announced four Cabinet and Cabinet-level positions on Thursday, including Tom Vilsack for secretary of agriculture and Rep. Marcia Fudge for secretary of housing and urban development. 

Former Vice President Joe Biden (D) is the projected winner of the 2020 presidential election. The Electoral College will meet on December 14, 2020, to vote for the next president of the United States.

In 2016, there were 1,714 government positions subject to presidential appointment: 1,242 positions required Senate confirmation and 472 did not. The new administration is also responsible for filling thousands of other positions across the federal government, including in operations and policy. Every weekday, Ballotpedia is tracking potential Cabinet nominees, appointments, and news related to the Biden presidential transition.

Nominations and Appointments

Biden announced five key administration appointments on Thursday: Susan Rice for director of the White House Domestic Policy Council and four Cabinet-level positions.

Tom Vilsack, secretary of agriculture

Tom Vilsack previously served as secretary of agriculture during the Obama administration for eight years. He was confirmed by unanimous consent in the U.S. Senate in 2009. Vilsack was also the chairman of the White House Rural Council and the 40th governor of Iowa.

Marcia Fudge, secretary of housing and urban development 

Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio) has served in Congress since 2008. She is a former chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus and has served on the committees for house administration, agriculture, and education and labor.

Fudge’s district, Ohio’s 11th, is rated Safe Democratic. House vacancies are filled by special elections.

Denis McDonough, secretary of veterans affairs

Denis McDonough held several roles in the Obama White House, including as chief of staff from 2013 to 2017 and principal deputy national security advisor from 2010 to 2013. He worked in the U.S. House of Representatives in policy and leadership positions, including as a professional staff member on the International Relations Committee. If confirmed, he would be the second non-veteran in this office.

Katherine Tai, U.S. trade representative

Katherine Tai is the chief trade counsel to the chairman and Democratic members of the House Committee on Ways and Means. She served as associate general counsel and chief counsel for China trade enforcement at the Office of the United States Trade Representative. She previously practiced law in Washington, D.C., with a focus on international trade issues.

Transition in Context: In Their Words…

Here’s how Democratic and Republican leaders, advisers, and stakeholders have reacted to the nomination of Denis McDonough for secretary of veterans affairs.

  • “He is an experienced leader who has helped [the department] through its toughest days in 2014 and cares deeply about veterans. He will do a great job.” – David Shulkin, former secretary of veterans affairs (2017-2018)
  • “It’s a shockingly out of touch pick … they could have selected someone who’s been a patient there or has any direct experience with that community. The idea that Biden couldn’t find a qualified candidate among the more than 3 million veterans feels exceptionally patronizing.” – Paul Rieckhoff, founder of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America
  • “His leadership and support as then White House Chief of Staff was very helpful to what we achieved while I was Secretary. He is a crisis-tested leader of character with great knowledge, skills, and experience in using the levers of government. He is also an extremely empathetic leader, especially for service members and their families.” – Robert McDonald, former secretary of veterans affairs (2014-2017)
  • “We have a lot of veterans who still have trouble trusting the VA. I’m not sure that having someone at the helm who’s not a veteran is going to be helpful in the near term. … Although the VA central office and the White House are just across the street from each other, it’s a big distance when it comes to knowledge of what’s happening on the ground.” – Joe Chenelly, national executive director of AMVETS

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About the author

Emily Aubert

Emily Aubert is a staff writer at Ballotpedia. Contact us at editor@ballotpedia.org.

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