WILMINGTON, Del. (NewsNation Now) — With just over a month until Inauguration Day, President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris formally introduced more key picks to lead their administration Friday.
Ohio Rep. Marcia Fudge, who Biden has chosen as his pick for housing and urban development secretary, and Tom Vilsack, tapped to head the U.S. Agriculture Department once again, are among those introduced at the event in Wilmington, Delaware.
Others include Denis McDonough, former President Barack Obama’s chief of staff who Biden announced on Thursday would be nominated as the secretary of veterans affairs. Susan Rice, Obama’s former national security adviser, was named the director of Biden’s White House Domestic Policy Council. Katherine Tai was nominated for U.S. Trade Representative.
“They bring deep experience and bold new thinking,” Biden said. “Above all, they know how government should and can work for all Americans.”
At the announcement Friday, Biden also stressed the importance of coronavirus vaccinations. He highlighted the nation’s growing death toll and pledged to fight for Americans by committing to 100 million shots in his first 100 days in office.
“The first 100 days won’t end COVID-19, but meeting these goals can slow the spread,
save lives, and get us back to our lives with our loved ones,” Biden said. “And so will getting the right people confirmed and in place to manage this robust, aggressive plan to contain the virus, help us build back better than ever, and make sure everyone is included.”
Vice President-elect Harris said Friday their administration has brought together a team of talented members to “deliver immediate relief to every corner of our great country.”
“Over the past few weeks, President-elect Biden and I have announced members of our administration who will help contain this pandemic, responsibly open our economy, and keep our nation safe and secure,” Harris said in a statement. “The administration members we are announcing today will help us meet a range of other challenges — from helping make sure no American goes hungry to putting affordable housing within reach for all to caring for veterans and their families and advancing our ideals of opportunity and equality.”
In selecting Rice, McDonough and Vilsack, Biden is bringing back several familiar faces from Obama’s presidency.
Rice, a longtime Democratic foreign policy expert who was in the running to serve as Biden’s vice president, will switch gears in her domestic policy role to help shape the administration’s approach on immigration, health care and racial inequality. The appointment of Rice is expected to lift the prominence of the role.
Advisers said Biden is signaling the importance of domestic policy in his early agenda. Though the council was created with the intention of being on par with the White House National Security Council, it traditionally has had a lower public profile, including for its directors.
Rice’s role doesn’t require Senate confirmation.
“I am humbled and excited by this call to serve. The scale of the challenges ahead demands a government that works for all Americans,” Rice said in a Twitter statement Thursday. “We must restore trust in government through strong and equitable domestic policy that builds back better here at home.”
McDonough, who served through most of Obama’s eight years as National Security Council chief of staff, deputy national security adviser and finally as White House chief of staff, was plucked to lead the sprawling Department of Veterans Affairs.
McDonough was credited with helping Obama try to bridge divides on Capitol Hill, including around one of his most substantial second-term legislative achievements: the Veterans Choice Act. The legislation gave former service members more options to seek care and the VA secretary more authority to fire underperforming staffers.
“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 said in a statement on Twitter Thursday. “Those who have served this nation, their caregivers, and survivors should expect nothing less.”
Vilsack spent eight years as head of the U.S. Department of Agriculture during the Obama administration. He also served two terms as Iowa governor.
Fudge had been considered as a leading candidate to head the Agriculture Department. She would’ve become the agency’s first Black secretary, if nominated.
The president-elect’s allies say he’s making good on his pledge to fill out a Cabinet that reflects the diversity of the nation while putting a premium on the ability of his picks to hit the ground running.
“Each of these nominees are forward-thinking, crisis-tested and experienced, and they are ready to quickly use the levers of government to make meaningful differences in the lives of Americans and help govern on day one,” the Biden transition team said in a statement.
Earlier this week, Biden introduced retired Army Gen. Lloyd Austin to serve as his defense secretary. If confirmed, he would be the first Black Pentagon chief.
Meanwhile, President Donald Trump continues to challenge the election results more than a month after Americans took to the polls.
The president has backed a lawsuit filed by Texas’ attorney general, seeking to undo Biden’s victory in several battleground states. The suit, which was filed Tuesday, seeks to invalidate 62 Electoral College votes from Pennsylvania, Georgia, Michigan and Wisconsin.
Georgia has directly challenged the underlying premise of the Texas complaint, adding that the state has no legal right to sue. Pennsylvania has also objected to the lawsuit’s claims. More than 20 states have joined the District of Columbia’s filing in opposition to Texas.