Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, left, and Yellen's husband George Akerlof participate in a swearing-in ceremony on Tuesday at the White House.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, left, and Yellen's husband George Akerlof participate in a swearing-in ceremony on Tuesday at the White House. Patrick Semansky/AP

Biden Administration Has Four Nominees Confirmed So Far 

There are many historic firsts for diversity with Biden’s nominations. 

The Biden administration is almost a week old and so far has four Cabinet-level appointees confirmed, after having fewer hearings before Inauguration Day than recent predecessors. 

Throughout the transition, the Biden team stressed the need to be ready to govern on day one amid the coronavirus pandemic and economic recession, and then after the deadly riots at the U.S. Capitol on January 6. There are about 4,000 political appointee positions in the government, about 1,250 of which require Senate confirmation. Biden has named interim leaders to serve while the appointees await confirmation. 

The Democrats have a slim majority in the Senate, which bodes well for Biden’s confirmation progress. However, Kathryn Dunn Tenpas, a senior fellow at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center, said “it is difficult to forecast the impact” of the upcoming impeachment trial for former President Trump in the Senate, but “it is safe to say that it will likely slow down the confirmation process.” 

Here is where things stand for the Cabinet and some other top officials, as of Tuesday afternoon: 

  • Biden’s Treasury, State and Defense secretaries and director of National Intelligence are confirmed. 
  • The Homeland Security, Commerce and Transportation secretary nominees have had hearings and the DHS nominee (Alejandro Mayorkas) was voted favorably out of committee.
  • There are hearings scheduled for the Energy, Veterans Affairs, and Housing and Urban Development secretaries; the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations; and the Council of Economic Advisers chair.
  • The following nominees have just been announced and/or referred to their respective Senate committees: attorney general; U.S. Agency for International Development director; Labor, Health and Human Services, Interior, Education and Agriculture department secretaries; CIA chief; head of the Small Business Administration; Environmental Protection Agency head; Federal Emergency Management Agency director; Office of Management and Budget director; and Office of Science and Technology Policy chief. 
  • Biden has yet to name nominees for the General Services Administration and Office of Personnel Management. 

Biden has committed to having an executive branch that reflects the diversity of the nation. He has appointed more women to Cabinet posts than his six predecessors and “while President-elect Biden is on par with his Democratic predecessors in terms of non-white appointments, the data in and of themselves do not highlight the important significance of the many historic ‘firsts’ in this set of appointments,” according to a recent analysis by the Brookings Institution. “They include appointing the first woman, Janet Yellen, to be secretary of the Treasury, the first Native American, Deb Haaland, to be secretary of the Interior, the first Hispanic, Alejandro Mayorkas, to be secretary at the Department of Homeland Security, and the first Black person, Lloyd Austin, to be secretary of Defense.” Lastly, the average age for incoming secretaries, going back to President Reagan, was 57 and Biden’s average is 59.

“President Biden should be commended for the record-setting pace of [announcing] his nominations,” Max Stier, president and CEO of the nonprofit Partnership for Public Service, told Government Executive on Tuesday. “However, the Senate is moving far too slowly in confirming the president’s Cabinet and other key appointments. The sluggish pace of confirmations during this time of crisis highlights the need to reduce the number of political appointments requiring Senate confirmation.”