Ballotpedia’s Weekly Transition Tracker: January 16-22, 2021

President Joe Biden (D) and his team have been preparing for the transition between presidential administrations since the election, including selecting senior White House staff and appointees to top government positions.

In 2020, there were 1,472 government positions subject to presidential appointment: 1,118 positions required Senate confirmation and 354 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 administration.

Former Vice President Joe Biden (D) was sworn in as the 46th president of the United States by Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts on Jan. 20.

Former Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) was sworn in as the 49th vice president of the United States by Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. Harris is the first Black woman and person of South Asian descent to serve as vice president.

Due to security concerns stemming from the breach of the U.S. Capitol, approximately 25,000 National Guard members were in Washington, D.C. The National Mall was closed to the general public, and there was no public parade from the Capitol to the White House.

Under the 20th Amendment, the terms of President Donald Trump (R) and Vice President Mike Pence (R) ended at noon. Trump declined to participate in the inauguration and departed from the White House in the morning for Palm Beach, Florida. The last president to skip his successor’s inauguration for political reasons was Andrew Johnson in 1869.

  • The Senate confirmed Avril Haines for director of national intelligence on Wednesday night by a vote of 84-10. She is the first woman to serve in this position. Ten Republicans opposed her confirmation: Ted Cruz (Texas), Josh Hawley (Mo.), Joni Ernst (Iowa), Mike Lee (Utah), Roger Marshall (Kan.), Marsha Blackburn (Tenn.), Bill Hagerty (Tenn.), Rand Paul (Ky.), James Risch (Idaho), and Mike Braun (Ind.). Six senators—four Republicans and two Democrats—did not vote.
  • The House and Senate approved a waiver that would allow retired Gen. Lloyd Austin to serve as secretary of defense before a seven-year cooldown period for former active service members. The House approved by a vote of 326-78 and the Senate by a vote of 69-27. The Senate will vote on Austin’s confirmation on Friday morning.
  • Confirmation hearings are scheduled next week for the following Cabinet and Cabinet-rank nominees:
    • Gina Raimondo, nominee for secretary of commerce, will appear before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation on Tuesday.
    • Jennifer Granholm, nominee for secretary of energy, will appear before the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources on Wednesday.
    • Linda Thomas-Greenfield, nominee for ambassador to the United Nations, will appear before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday 
    • Denis McDonough, nominee for secretary of veterans affairs, will appear before the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee on Wednesday.
    • Marcia Fudge, nominee for secretary of housing and urban development, will appear before the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs.

Eric Lander, presidential science advisor and director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy

Biden announced on Saturday that he had selected geneticist Eric Lander as his presidential science advisor and director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy. Biden also said that he was elevating this position to be Cabinet-rank.

Lander is the founding director of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, a biomedical and genomic research center. He is also a professor of biology at MIT and professor of systems biology at Harvard Medical School. During the Obama administration, he was the co-chair of the presidential Council of Advisors on Science and Technology.

Gary Gensler, chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission

On Monday, Biden announced that he had picked Gary Gensler as his nominee for chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission. Gensler served in the Obama administration as the chairman of the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission from 2009 to 2014. He also advised on the writing of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act. Gensler also advised the presidential campaigns of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

Rohit Chopra, director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

Biden also announced on Monday that Rohit Chopra, a commissioner on the Federal Trade Commission, would serve as the director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Chopra previously worked in the agency as an assistant director.

Transition in Context: Acting Agency Leadership

With no Cabinet or agency directors confirmed by his inauguration, Biden announced the following acting leadership across several key agencies on Wednesday. Senate confirmation is not required for these positions.

The White House said in a statement, “These individuals, nearly all of whom are career civil servants, will temporarily lead federal agencies while Cabinet nominees continue moving through the confirmation process.”

  • Central Intelligence Agency, David Cohen
  • Department of Defense, David Norquist
  • Department of Energy, David Huizenga
  • Department of Health and Human Services, Norris Cochran
  • Department of Homeland Security, David Pekoske
  • Department of Justice, Monty Wilkinson
  • Department of Labor, Al Stewart
  • Department of State, Dan Smith
  • Department of Treasury, Andy Baukol
  • Office of the Director of National Intelligence, Lora Shiao
  • General Services Administration, Katy Kale
  • National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Steve Jurczyk
  • National Endowment for the Arts, Ann Eilers
  • National Endowment for the Humanities, Adam Wolfson
  • Office of Management and Budget, Rob Fairweather
  • Office of National Drug Control Policy, Regina LaBelle
  • Office of Personnel Management, Kathy McGettigan
  • Small Business Administration, Tami Perriello
  • Social Security Administration, Andrew Saul
  • U.S. Agency for International Development, Gloria Steele
  • U.S. International Development Finance Corporation, Dev Jagadesan
  • U.S. Mission to the United Nations, Rich Mills
  • Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, Maria Pagan


  • Biden announced the creation of a White House Gender Policy Council on Tuesday. Jennifer Klein, the chief strategy and policy officer at Time’s Up, and Jill Biden’s incoming chief of staff Julissa Reynoso will co-chair the council.
  • Jennifer Granholm, Biden’s energy secretary nominee, submitted her financial disclosure forms. Granholm and her husband owned between $4.4 million and $16.8 million in investments, including in the energy industry. She said she would step down from her role on Proterra Inc.’s board of directors and divest if confirmed.
  • Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) filed articles of impeachment against Biden on Thursday. She released a press release that said the charges were “for his corrupt actions involving his quid pro quo in Ukraine and his abuse of power by allowing his son, Hunter Biden, to siphon off cash from America’s greatest enemies Russia and China.” Biden has not issued a response. The Hill reported, “An investigation by Senate Republicans last year into corruption allegations against the Bidens found no evidence of wrongdoing by the current president.”

Transition in Context: In Their Words…

Here’s what Democratic and Republican leaders, advisers, and stakeholders said about the confirmation process for Alejandro Mayorkas for secretary of homeland security.

  • “Our nation is facing unprecedented crises and threats to American national security, from the devastating Coronavirus pandemic to massive cyber breaches across government and the private sector—and as we have seen too clearly in recent weeks— rising domestic terrorism and anti-government violence. The Department of Homeland Security is the lead agency charged with combatting these threats and more, and it needs qualified, Senate-confirmed leadership in place immediately.” – Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.)
  • “Mr. Mayorkas has not adequately explained how he will enforce federal law and secure the southern border given President-elect Biden’s promise to roll back major enforcement and security measures. Just today, he declined to say he would enforce the laws Congress has already passed to secure the border wall system. Given this, I cannot consent to skip the standard vetting process and fast-track this nomination when so many questions remain unanswered.” – Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.)

Transition in Context

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