Padilla tapped to replace Harris in Senate

December 23, 2020: California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that Alex Padilla will fill the vacancy left by Vice President-elect Kamala Harris in the U.S. Senate.

Prior to taking office on January 20, 2021, President-elect Joe Biden (D) and his team must prepare for the transition between presidential administrations, including selecting senior White House staff and appointees to top government positions.

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.

Appointments and Nominations

Miguel Cardona, secretary of education

Biden announced Miguel Cardona as his nominee for secretary of education on Tuesday night. Cardona has served as the Connecticut commissioner of education since 2019. He began his career in education as an elementary school teacher. He then worked as a principal for a decade before becoming the superintendent for teaching and learning in Meriden, Connecticut, in 2013.


  • Biden digital director Rob Flaherty said on Tuesday that Twitter will not automatically roll over followers of the @POTUS (33 million) and @WhiteHouse (26 million) accounts to the Biden administration. Those accounts will be archived under different names and the primary accounts reset to zero followers. In 2017, President Donald Trump (R) inherited outgoing President Barack Obama’s (D) 13 million followers under those account names. Twitter spokesman Nick Pacilio said Twitter was in “ongoing discussions with the Biden transition team on a number of aspects related to White House account transfers.”
  • Biden said the Pentagon was not briefing his transition team on the suspected Russian cyberattack and other national security issues. In a responding statement, a representative from the Pentagon directed Biden’s team to the Cyber Unified Coordination Group for such a briefing.
  • California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) announced on Tuesday that state Secretary of State  Alex Padilla will fill the vacancy left by Vice President-elect Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) in the U.S. Senate for the remaining two years of her term.
  • Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) discussed the confirmation process for Biden’s nominees, saying on Monday, “They aren’t all going to pass on a voice vote, and they aren’t all going to make it, but I will put them on the floor.”

Transition in Context: What are confirmation sherpas?

Congressional affairs staff members and volunteers who guide nominees through the confirmation process are known as sherpas. They are familiar with Senate protocol and help nominees navigate the intricacies of each committee’s filing requirements and culture during confirmation hearings.

In 2016, the Trump Transition had more than a dozen sherpas for Cabinet-level nominees. According to the Center for Presidential Transition, “All the sherpas had congressional experience and most had worked in a senior capacity in the Senate … The Trump administration took a more decentralized approach to the role of the sherpa for lower-level nominees and delegated this responsibility to different staff within the agencies.”

Jen Psaki, who will serve as White House press secretary in the Biden administration, was assigned to lead the Biden Transition’s sherpas in November.

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