Updated: February 26, 2021
The United States of America “needs presidential leadership — right now”, President-elect Joseph R. Biden said on Friday, after lamenting that thousands of Americans lives were being lost to the virus every day, with millions others on the brink of bankruptcy and eviction.
“We’re in the teeth of this crisis right now. And this nation needs presidential leadership — right now. Presidential leadership that is willing to model the steps we all should be taking in our own lives,” Biden said in Wilmington, Delaware, in remarks to introduce his new cabinet picks.
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“This week marked yet another tragic milestone in our fight against COVID-19. More than 3,000 deaths in one single day — the highest single death count during the pandemic. That’s more deaths in a single day than we saw on either 9/11 or Pearl Harbor. And the current director of the CDC said yesterday that we can expect a similar number of deaths or more every single day for the next 60 to 90 days,” he added.
Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris introduced key members of their administration, including nominee for Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack; nominee for Secretary of the Department of Housing and Development, Marcia Fudge; Nominee for Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Denis McDonough; Nominee for United States Trade Representative, Katherine Tai and Appointee for Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, Susan Rice.
Read full remarks by Joe Biden below
Before I make my announcements for today, I want to say a few words about the COVID-19 crisis.
This week marked yet another tragic milestone in our fight against COVID-19.
More than 3,000 deaths in one single day — the highest single death count during the pandemic.
That’s more deaths in a single day than we saw on either 9/11 or Pearl Harbor. And the current director of the CDC said yesterday that we can expect a similar number of deaths or more every single day for the next 60 to 90 days.
We’re in the teeth of this crisis right now.
And this nation needs presidential leadership — right now.
Presidential leadership that is willing to model the steps we all should be taking in our own lives.
We can’t wish it away. We have to face it. And we will take it on.
Using every power available to me as president, we will have a national coordinated strategy. And we will beat this virus.
And as tough as things are now, I firmly believe better days are ahead.
We got some good news yesterday.
The FDA Advisory Committee recommended emergency use authorization of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.
We are grateful for the scientists and researchers who developed the vaccine.
We’re just as grateful to the scientists and public experts who evaluated its safety
and efficacy, free from political influence.
Scientific integrity led us to this point.
But we know the immense challenges and hard work ahead. Earlier this week, I announced our COVID Response Team that will scale up the manufacturing, distribution, and injection of the vaccine.
And we set a bold — but doable — challenge for my first 100 days.
100 million shots in 100 days.
Asking the American people to wear masks for 100 days.
And if we get the necessary funding from Congress, we can get most of our schools open in 100 days.
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.
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.
Today, I am pleased to add members to my team that will get the job done.
In addition to the pandemic’s grim milestone, the economic crisis has left millions of Americans out of work, without a paycheck, and without health insurance. Unable to put enough food on the table. Unsure whether they can pay rent or mortgage as the new year begins.
It’s affecting everyone from farmers to students, seniors to veterans — in red states and blue states, in small towns and big cities.
That’s why the Congress needs to act — and act now on the Covid package.
It must get done before they go home.
Millions and millions of Americans simply can’t wait any longer.
We shouldn’t — and we can’t — get bogged down on issues that don’t help people.
State and local governments need the help.
Not only that, as I’ve said for months now, we need to protect essential personnel — like cops and firefighters — and make sure everything is in place to effectively distribute the vaccine.
This relief package won’t be the total answer. But it’s an important first step.
There’s so much we have to do.
These crises have ripped the blinders off the systemic racism in America.
Black, Latino, and Native Americans are nearly three times more likely to die from COVID-19.
The Black and Latino unemployment gap remains too large. And communities of color are left to ask whether they will ever be able to break the cycle where in good times they lag, in bad times they are hit first and the hardest, and in recovery they take the longest to bounce back.
Vice President-elect Harris and I knew we’d have our work cut out for us when we got elected.
But we also knew we could build a team that would meet this unique and challenging moment.
Some are familiar faces. Some are in new roles. All are facing new circumstances and challenges.
That’s a good thing. They bring deep experience and bold new thinking. Above all, they know how government should and can work for all Americans.
For Secretary of Agriculture, I nominate Tom Vilsack.
An outstanding two-term Governor of Iowa, and the best Secretary of Agriculture I believe our country has ever had.
He was there when the Great Recession was pummeling rural America.
Over eight years, he oversaw record-breaking investments to bring us back.
He implemented the Recovery Act to help rural communities recover and rebuild.
Tom helped expand markets around the world for American farmers.
He improved our food safety standards and helped millions of children and families
receive healthy meals.
I asked him to serve again in this role because he knows USDA inside and out.
We need that experience now.
One-in-six Americans — and a quarter of children in America — are facing hunger.
The opioid crisis is a rural America crisis, as is the climate crisis with droughts and floods wiping out crops and small towns.
Farmers and small businesses in small towns and rural communities — white, Black, Latino — are reeling from the pandemic and economic downturn.
Tom knows the full range of resources available in this department to get immediate relief to those most in need and address the crises facing rural America.
He knows how to build back better for all Americans.
He helped develop my rural plan for America in the campaign, and he will now carry it out.
That includes making American agriculture the first in the world to achieve net-zero emissions and create new sources of income for farmers in the process, by paying farmers to put their land in conservation and plant cover crops that use the soil to capture carbon.
And he will ensure that USDA promotes true racial equity and inclusion.
He recognizes the history of discrimination and will root it out wherever it exists.
I’ve known Tom a long time. He will get it done.
For Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, I nominate Congresswoman Marcia Fudge.
A former Mayor who understands how to manage challenges and forge solutions at the local level.
For twelve years in Congress, she’s represented the great city of Cleveland.
Though I think her most significant political feat was winning the presidency of the Deltas.
She’s devoted her entire career to fighting for working people on issues — from affordable housing to urban revitalization.
During the Great Recession, her district was hit hard by the housing crisis.
She’s spent the past decade working to improve blighted neighborhoods and create safer, more affordable communities. She also understands where you live impacts your health, access to education, jobs, and economic opportunity.
She’ll bring that same vision as HUD Secretary, using every lever at her disposal to help the millions of Americans facing eviction — trying to pay their mortgage and find their way through this crisis.
She will lead our charge to make housing more affordable and accessible.
She’ll work to increase home ownership as a means toward wealth generation for communities of color.
And she will help us build back better by working across the ideological spectrum to fulfill the promise of HUD’s mission: “to create strong, sustainable, inclusive communities and quality affordable homes for all.”
Marcia will be the first woman to lead HUD in more than 40 years — and just the second Black woman ever.
I am honored to have her serve in the Biden-Harris Administration at this critical moment in our nation’s history.
For Secretary of Veterans Affairs, I nominate Denis McDonough.
Former White House Chief of Staff. Former Deputy National Security Advisor.
Deep experience on Capitol Hill.
He shares my belief that we have many obligations as a nation, but we have only one, truly sacred obligation:
To prepare and equip our troops that we send in harm’s way and then to care for them — and their families — when they return.
He regularly traveled to Afghanistan and Iraq to meet directly with our service members to see what they were going through and understand the strains they and their families were going through.
He’d visit them at Walter Reed to see first-hand the visible and invisible wounds they brought home.
He knows the cost of war on veterans and their families — from the toll on their physical and mental health to their access to good-paying jobs.
He is a fierce advocate, a relentless workhorse, and a world-class manager with an innate understanding for how government can and must work for them.
He worked closely with then-VA Secretary Bob McDonald and Congress to increase VA funding and to ensure veterans can get the benefits they earned and deserve.
That included implementing Veterans Choice — a bill led by my friend Bernie Sanders and our late friend, the American hero John McCain and signed into law by President Obama in 2014 — to help veterans access the quality health care they need when they need it.
In this new role, I’ve given Denis a clear mission: fight like hell for our veterans and their families.
And anyone who has worked with Denis will tell you, he will move Heaven and Earth to fix any problem and get the job done.
He will also work closely with our Secretary of Defense-designate Lloyd Austin, the entire Cabinet, and Jill as First Lady to pull every lever to help us build back the VA better than ever.
And with Denis, it’s a family endeavor.
His wife Kari leads a nonprofit that helps connect veterans and military families with local communities so they can help each other out — and build a stronger country together.
To all the veterans and military families: nominating a VA Secretary is one of the most important decisions I believe a president can make.
Denis will always be there for you. Always.
For United States Trade Representative, I nominate Katherine Tai.
A tested trade expert.
A dedicated public servant who knows government and who has spent her career leveling the playing field for American workers and families.
She currently serves as the chief lawyer on trade for the powerful House Ways and Means Committee.
She’s earned praise from lawmakers of both parties and from labor and business.
During the Obama-Biden Administration, she was the chief trade enforcer against unfair trade practices by China, which will be a key priority for the Biden-Harris Administration.
She understands that we need to be more strategic in how we trade — in a way that makes us all stronger and leaves no one behind.
She will work closely with my economic, national security, and foreign policy teams.
Trade will be a critical pillar of our ability to build back better and carry out our Foreign Policy for the Middle Class.
She brings a sophisticated understanding of the threats of climate change to trade and will address the climate crisis with urgency.
She also embodies a powerful immigrant story of America.
Her parents were born in China, moved to Taiwan, and then came to the United States where Katherine was born.
Her parents became government scientists at Walter Reed and the NIH, inspiring their daughter to pursue a career in public service.
Katherine says she’s the first American-born member of her family — and a second-generation U.S. government servant.
If confirmed, she would be the first Asian American and first woman of color to serve in this position.
And our nation, our economy, our workers, our businesses will be fortunate to have her serve in this role.
And for Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, I appoint Susan Rice.
Former United States Ambassador to the United Nations.
Former National Security Advisor to President Obama.
A former cabinet member, a team player, a policy heavyweight and tough negotiator, and a trusted and tested public servant, who I have known and admired for a long time.
She will lead and coordinate my critical domestic policy agenda.
Susan will elevate and turbo-charge a revitalized Domestic Policy Council to help us build back better on every issue across the board.
She will work closely with my director of the National Economic Council, Brian Deese.
She will work closely with my National Security Advisor, Jake Sullivan, at the National Security Council.
Together, they will align domestic policy, economic policy, and national security unlike ever before.
It’s a big job and a critical one.
That’s why I’ve asked Susan to serve again.
She’s been there. She knows what it takes — like she did in helping mobilize the entire federal government to end the Ebola crisis.
And her voice is particularly needed at this critical moment.
A granddaughter of immigrants and a descendent of enslaved people, Susan will be an effective, tireless champion for all Americans.
I am thrilled she will be back at my side in the White House.
To each of you on this team, you have my gratitude for answering the call to serve.
To your families, thank you.
We could not do this without you.
To the career civil servants at these agencies, we look forward to working with you. It’s time to re-dedicate ourselves to the missions our government agencies
were entrusted with.
And to the American people, help is on the way.
We will not let you down.
May God bless you.
May God protect our troops.
I’ll now turn it over to the team, starting with the next Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack.