Experienced Cabinet ‘firsts’


Competence, experience and precedent-setting diversity appear to be the hallmarks of the most recent round of men and women President-elect Joe Biden has nominated to fill his Cabinet. Each has a connection to the overall area of nominated responsibility — or has helpful parallel experience — all of which should help ensure that we will have a government with qualified leadership helping to direct policy.

Among the leading issues driving many of Biden’s appointments is his clear commitment to fighting climate change. An example is North Carolina regulator Michael S. Regan, nominated to lead the Environmental Protection Agency. Regan is an experienced environmental negotiator, who worked in the EPA during the Clinton and George W. Bush administrations.

Similarly, Biden’s pick for interior secretary is U.S. Rep. Debra Haaland of New Mexico, who focused on climate issues in Congress and is the House member closest to environmental activists in the Democratic Party.

That Haaland is a Native American and Regan an African American — thus making them both a “first” to hold the position — is less important than their competence and experience.

We are also encouraged that the nominees are largely moderates. Although Haaland and, to a lesser extent, Regan, are identified with the progressive wing of the Democratic party, neither is radical. And when critics complain about “The Squad,” they never bring up the name of Marcia Fudge, a Democratic representative from Ohio, whom Biden tapped as secretary of Housing and Urban Development, who co-sponsored the Combating BDS Act of 2016.

Further, if men were to be included in The Squad, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, nominated to head the Department of Health and Human Services, would not be among them. As a member of Congress in 2005, he voted yes on a “sense of the House” bill calling on the United Nations to condemn anti-Semitic statements and develop and implement Holocaust education programs.

We were also pleased to see a number of Jews in the mix: Dr. Rochelle Walensky, head of infectious diseases at Massachusetts General Hospital, was tapped to head the Centers for Disease Control. Jeff Zients, who owns the D.C. “Jew-ish” deli Call Your Mother, will lead Biden’s COVID response. And Jared Bernstein, Biden’s chief economist in the Obama White House, was selected to serve on the Council of Economic Advisers.

We hope the path toward confirmation of these nominees will be prompt and fair. Should Republicans maintain control of the Senate — and we continue to believe that a divided government is a good thing — we trust that Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will put the interests of country over those of party and allow the confirmation processes to proceed in an orderly fashion. It is important that Biden’s team be enabled to begin tackling significant policy issues promptly, without the need to resort to interim appointments and other ploys to work around petty political stonewalling.

We are about to begin a new year with a new administration. Let’s do it with dignity.

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