Susan Rice Tapped for Biden Cabinet Post That Won’t Need Senate Nod

This 2016 photo shows Susan Rice is seen on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

(CN) — President-elect Joe Biden announced more members of his administration Thursday morning, including Susan Rice to lead the Domestic Policy Council and Denis McDonough for secretary of veterans affairs.

Both Rice and McDonough are Obama administration alums who have worked alongside Biden for years.

Before finding herself this year on Biden’s short list as a potential running mate, Rice had served under Obama first as U.N. ambassador and then as his national security adviser. 

“Rice is among our nation’s most senior and experienced government leaders with the skills to harness the power of the federal government to serve the American people,” Biden said in a press release. 

The position as the director of the White House Domestic Policy Council does not need Senate confirmation, which may have been a hurdle for Rice as Republicans have long criticized her in connection to the 2011 attack on a U.S. Embassy in Benghazi where four Americans were killed.

As a former Rhodes scholar and Stanford graduate, Rice is highly regarded as intelligent and immensely knowledgeable about foreign policy. Yet she has received criticism for being abrasive and for leading a National Security Council that did not work well with other agencies.

McDonough meanwhile will be returning to the White House to fill a role usually given to veterans, which he is not.

“McDonough knows the ins and outs of government, and if confirmed, he will pull every lever to deliver results for veterans and their families,” Biden said in a press release.

McDonough was a longtime aide to Obama, serving as his chief of staff from 2013–17 and prior to that he was the assistant to the president and the principal deputy national security adviser from 2010–13. 

The secretary of veterans affairs is a position that will need a Senate confirmation. 

Denis McDonough was White House chief of staff when this 2013 photo was taken at FBI Headquarters in Washington. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, File)

Former Trump VA Secretary David Shulkin, the only other nonveteran to hold the position, praised Biden’s pick.

“He is an experienced leader who has helped [the department] through its’ toughest days in 2014 and cares deeply about veterans,” Shulkin wrote on Twitter. “He will do a great job.” 

Shulkin also worked in Veterans Affairs under Obama from 2015–17. 

McDonough took to Twitter to acknowledge his nomination. 

“When I received the call from President-elect Biden, I assured him that I will represent the voices of all veterans at every level, on every issue, every day,” McDonough tweeted. “Those who have served this nation, their caregivers, and survivors should expect nothing less.”

The announcement Thursday also included a few other choices for cabinet positions, including Ohio Representative Marcia Fudge for secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Katherine Tai for U.S. trade representative and Tom Vilsack for secretary of agriculture.

If confirmed, Fudge, who has represented the 11th District of Ohio since 2008, would be the second Black woman to hold the position. Patricia Harris under President Jimmy Carter was the first. 

Formerly a mayor in Ohio, Fudge was also previously chair of the Congressional Black Caucus. She sits on the House Committee for Agriculture and is chair of the Committee on Agriculture Subcommittee on Nutrition, Oversight and Department Operations. 

Despite Fudge’s agricultural experience, Vilsack will bring a unique experience to the role as he held the same position under Obama for both terms.

Vilsack also served as chair to the first-ever White House Rural Council and was a two-term governor for Iowa.

As for Tai, if confirmed, she would be the first Asian-American and woman of color to hold the position. Biden says she brings a “deep experience” to the role, referencing that she serves as the chief lawyer on trade for the House Ways and Means Committee and has previously served as chief counsel for China Trade Enforcement under the U.S. trade representative’s office.

Both Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris feel optimistic about the recent Cabinet choices.

“This is the right team for this moment in history, and I know that each of these leaders will hit the ground running on day one to take on the interconnected crises families are facing today,” said Biden in a press release. 

Harris expressed similar praise.

“These deeply experienced public servants reflect the best of our nation, and will be ready to hit the ground running on day one to rebuild our country in a way that lifts up all Americans,” Harris said in a press release.

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