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Biden selects Tom Vilsack to lead department of Agriculture, Marcia Fudge for Housing, and Denis McDonough for Veterans Affairs Updated for 2021

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Updated: February 24, 2021

U.S. President-elect Joe Biden announced a new batch of key members of his administration on Thursday, including Secretary Tom Vilsack, Secretary of Agriculture; Congresswoman Marcia Fudge, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development; Denis McDonough, Secretary of Veterans Affairs; Katherine Tai, United States Trade Representative; and Ambassador Susan Rice, Director of the Domestic Policy Council.

“This diverse and accomplished team will work around the clock to deliver immediate relief to the American people — including working families, veterans, farmers and producers, and everyone fighting for their place in the middle class,” the Biden transition team said in a statement.

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President-elect Joe Biden said his “dedicated and distinguished group of public servants will bring the highest level of experience, compassion, and integrity to bear, solving problems and expanding possibilities for the American people in the face of steep challenges.”

“The roles they will take on are where the rubber meets the road — where competent and crisis-tested governance can make a meaningful difference in people’s lives, enhancing the dignity, equity, security, and prosperity of the day-to-day lives of Americans. 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,” Biden said.

According to Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, “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. 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. 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.” 

Who they are

Secretary Tom Vilsack, a two-term Governor of Iowa and the Secretary of Agriculture for all eight years of the Obama-Biden administration, is ready to get to work on day one. With an estimated one-in-six Americans and a quarter of U.S. children facing a hunger crisis, farmers reeling, and rural communities struggling to weather the pain and economic fallout of the pandemic, Vilsack will bring the experience and bold thinking needed to deliver immediate relief to farmers, ranchers, producers and families all across the country. Vilsack is committed to ensuring the USDA promotes true equity and inclusion in every mission it has. Confirmed by the unanimous consent of the Senate in 2009, Secretary Vilsack oversaw record-breaking investments in rural communities, secured vital improvements to the nation’s school meal system, and led a successful campaign to increase food safety standards. 

Congresswoman Marcia Fudge, a leading voice for working families who has represented Ohio’s 11th Congressional District for the last twelve years, is nominated to serve as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. A former mayor of Warrensville Heights, Ohio, and past Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, Congresswoman Fudge is a longtime champion of affordable housing, urban revitalization, infrastructure investment, and other reforms to enhance the safety, prosperity, and sustainability of American communities. If confirmed, she will be the first woman to lead HUD in more than 40 years and the second Black woman in history to lead the Department.

Denis McDonough, a lifelong public servant who has been engaged at the highest level in shaping domestic and foreign policy, is nominated to serve as Secretary of Veterans Affairs. Through his service as White House Chief of Staff, Deputy National Security Advisor, and Chief of Staff of the National Security Council, McDonough helped lead the Obama-Biden administration’s work on behalf of military families and veterans, and earned the trust of the President-elect as a first-class manager with the knowledge and vision to deliver results. McDonough knows the ins and outs of government, and if confirmed, he will pull every lever to deliver results for veterans and their families. 

Katherine Tai, a dedicated, deeply respected public servant and veteran international trade expert who has spent her career working to level the playing field for American workers and families, is nominated to serve as United States Trade Representative. If confirmed, she would be the first Asian American and first woman of color to serve in this position. Tai serves as the chief lawyer on trade for the House Ways and Means Committee and previously served in the Office of the United States Trade Representative as Chief Counsel for China Trade Enforcement. Her deep experience will allow the Biden-Harris administration to hit the ground running on trade, and harness the power of our trading relationships to help the U.S. dig out of the COVID-induced economic crisis and pursue the President-elect’s vision of a pro-American worker trade strategy.  

Ambassador Susan Rice will serve as Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council. With years of experience working at senior levels in the executive branch, Rice knows government inside and out and will carry through the President-elect’s vision of a newly empowered Domestic Policy Council and turbocharge the effort to build back better. 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. As a former member of the Cabinet, she also understands the challenges and opportunities of running an agency and has extensive experience working with other key members of the Biden-Harris White House team, including the heads of NSC and NEC. 

Read their extended profiles below:

Secretary Tom Vilsack, Secretary of Agriculture

Tom Vilsack
Tom Vilsack

Tom Vilsack is a former two-term governor of Iowa who served as Secretary of Agriculture for all eight years of the Obama-Biden Administration. Unanimously confirmed by the Senate to lead the USDA in 2009, he oversaw record-breaking investments in rural communities, secured vital improvements to the nation’s school meal system, and led a successful campaign to increase food safety standards during his tenure. Vilsack also served as Chair of the first-ever White House House Rural Council, where he helped drive critical financing opportunities to rural businesses and entrepreneurs. 

As the 40th Governor of Iowa, Vilsack led the charge on major infrastructure investments, implementing a successful program that spurred the creation of popular projects across the state. He worked across party lines to help create the Grow Iowa Values Fund, an initiative to invest in the state’s entrepreneurs and spark economic development. 

Prior to his tenure as Governor, Vilsack served as Mayor of Mount Pleasant, Iowa, and in the Iowa State Senate. Originally from Pittsburgh, he received his bachelor of arts degree from Hamilton College and his JD from Albany Law School. 

Congresswoman Marcia Fudge, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development

Congresswoman Marcia Fudge
Congresswoman Marcia Fudge

Congresswoman Marcia Fudge has represented the 11th Congressional District of Ohio since 2008. As a fierce advocate for solutions to our nation’s most pressing issues, Congresswoman Fudge currently serves on the Committee on House Administration, House Committee on Agriculture, and House Committee on Education and Labor. She is the Chair of the Committee on House Administration Subcommittee on Elections and Chair of the Committee on Agriculture Subcommittee on Nutrition, Oversight and Department Operations.  

A member of several congressional caucuses, she is also a past Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus. Congresswoman Fudge has served the people of Ohio for more than three decades, beginning with the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office. She was later elected as the first African American and first female mayor of Warrensville Heights, Ohio.

Congresswoman Fudge earned her bachelor’s degree in business from The Ohio State University and her JD from the Cleveland State University Cleveland-Marshall School of Law. She is a Past National President of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., and a member of its Greater Cleveland Alumnae Chapter.

Denis McDonough, Secretary of Veterans Affairs

Denis McDonough
Denis McDonough

From February 2013 to January 2017, Denis McDonough served as White House Chief of Staff for President Barack Obama. In that role, he managed the White House staff, and worked across the Cabinet, to advance the Obama-Biden agenda, confronted management issues facing the federal government, and devised and enforced plans, performance and goals, maintaining the Obama-Biden Administration’s reputation for effective, ethical operation.

Prior to his role as Chief of Staff, from September 2010 until February 2013, McDonough was Principal Deputy National Security Advisor. He chaired the National Security Council’s Deputies Committee, leading a multiagency team to address complex national security challenges, including crisis management and national security policy making. Prior to his eight-year tenure in the White House, McDonough served in senior leadership and policy-making positions in the U.S. House of Representatives, as Professional Staff Member on the International Relations Committee, and in the U.S. Senate, for the Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle and for Senator Ken Salazar (CO).

McDonough grew up in Minnesota in a family of 11 children, went to college at St. John’s University (MN) and to graduate school at Georgetown University.

Katherine Tai, United States Trade Representative

Katherine Tai
Katherine Tai

Katherine Tai is a dedicated, deeply respected public servant and veteran international trade expert who has spent her career working to level the playing field for American workers and families. Currently, Tai serves as the chief lawyer on trade to the Chairman and Democratic Members of the Committee on Ways and Means on matters of international trade as Chief Trade Counsel. In this role, she has secured key victories for workers in U.S. trade policy and has been praised by lawmakers and lawyers for her work. Prior to the Committee, Tai served in the USTR’s Office of the General Counsel, first as Associate General Counsel from 2007 to 2011 and then as Chief Counsel for China Trade Enforcement with responsibility for the development and litigation of U.S. disputes against China at the World Trade Organization (WTO). 

Before joining USTR, Tai worked in the international trade departments in various Washington, D.C. law firms. From 1996 to 1998, she lived and worked in Guangzhou, China teaching English at Sun Yat-Sen University as a Yale-China Fellow. Tai was born in Connecticut — the first American-born citizen in her family — and raised in the Washington, D.C. area. She is a graduate of Yale University and Harvard Law School.

Ambassador Susan Rice, Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council

Susan Rice
Susan Rice

Ambassador Susan E. Rice will serve as Domestic Policy Advisor and Director of the Domestic Policy Council. She will coordinate the formulation and implementation of President-elect Biden’s domestic policy agenda to build back better. Rice is among our nation’s most senior and experienced government leaders, bringing unparalleled skill in harnessing the power of the federal government to serve the American people. Rice served as National Security Advisor from 2013-2017, where she directed and implemented the Obama-Biden Administration’s national security policy in all areas including: global health, climate policy, international trade, development and economic issues, relationships with allies, competition and cooperation with China and Russia, and managing U.S. foreign relations with all regions of the world. As U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations and a member of the Cabinet from 2009-2013, Ambassador Rice won major concessions and sealed important agreements with America’s toughest adversaries and worked to advance U.S. interests and to promote global development, democracy and human rights.

Previously, Rice served President Bill Clinton as U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for African Affairs, and Director for International Organizations and Peacekeeping at the National Security Council from 1993-2001. This year, she co-chaired DC Mayor Muriel Bowser’s Re-open DC Advisory Commission during the COVID-19 pandemic. She is currently a Distinguished Visiting Research Fellow at American University and a Non-Resident Senior Fellow at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard University. Ambassador Rice received her master’s degree and Ph.D. in international relations from Oxford University, where she was a Rhodes Scholar, and her B.A. with honors in history from Stanford University.

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Simon Ateba
Simon Ateba
Simon Ateba covers the White House, the U.S. government, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and other financial and international institutions for Today News Africa in Washington D.C. Simon can be reached on simonateba@todaynewsafrica.com

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