Several of President-elect Joe Biden’s nominees would make history if confirmed by the United States Senate to serve in top roles in his incoming administration.
Since winning the election, Biden has made moves to carry out his campaign promise of building an administration that looks like and reflects the diversity of America. Vice President-elect Kamala Harris has already shattered a monumental barrier by becoming the first woman elected Vice President.
Here are other people who would be historic firsts, if confirmed by the Senate:
First Black Deputy Secretary of the Treasury
Adewale “Wally” Adeyemo
Adeyemo currently serves as the president of the Obama Foundation. Adeyemo served during the Obama administration as the President’s senior international economic adviser, and also served as deputy national security adviser, deputy director of the National Economic Council, the first chief of staff of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and senior adviser and deputy chief of staff at the Department of the Treasury.
First Black Secretary of Defense
Austin would make history as the first Black person to lead the Pentagon if confirmed by the Senate. Austin is a retired Army general and is the former commander of the US Central Command. He has worked closely with Biden in the past. While Biden was vice president, Austin served as the vice chief of staff of the Army and commanding general of US forces in Iraq, and later the commander of CENTCOM. Biden and Austin had discussions on a range of issues, including those in the Middle East and Central and South Asia. Austin would need a congressional waiver to be confirmed for the civilian post because federal law requires seven years of retirement from active duty before taking on the role. Austin retired from active-duty service only four years ago.
First Latino to lead the Department of Health and Human Services
Becerra would be the first Latino to lead the Department of Health and Human Services if confirmed by the Senate. He currently serves as California’s attorney general, and is the first Latino to hold that office in the history of the state. Becerra has been a chief defender of the Affordable Care Act in court. As the Trump administration and a coalition of Republican state attorneys general fight to invalidate the landmark health reform law, Becerra has led a group of Democratic attorneys general arguing why the law remains valid. Becerra served 12 terms in Congress as a member of the US House of Representatives and held several leadership posts. He was the chair of the House Democratic Caucus, the chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and the ranking member of the Ways and Means Subcommittee on Social Security. He was also the first Latino to serve as a member of the Ways and Means Committee. Becerra also served one term in the California Legislature and is a former deputy attorney general with the California Department of Justice.
First out LGBTQ Cabinet secretary approved by Senate
Buttigieg would make history if confirmed by the Senate as the first out LGBTQ Cabinet secretary approved by the chamber. The former South Bend, Indiana, mayor is the youngest member named so far in Biden’s Cabinet, at 38 years old. He is also the only one of Biden’s former Democratic presidential opponents to be named so far as a Cabinet secretary nominee. The former mayor is seen as a rising star in the Democratic Party and rose to national prominence during the 2020 Democratic primary. Once an unknown mayor of a small city, Buttigieg became a top presidential contender and made history as the first LGBTQ presidential candidate to win primary delegates from a major party. During his tenure as mayor, Buttigieg in 2014 deployed to Afghanistan as an intelligence officer. After returning from his deployment, Buttigieg in 2015 came out as gay in an essay for the South Bend Tribune while serving as mayor. Later that year, Buttigieg won reelection.
First Hispanic American White House Social Secretary
Elizondo was a special assistant to the president and social secretary to the Bidens for all eight years of the Obama administration. He will be the first Hispanic American appointed to this position. During the Clinton administration, Elizondo served in both the White House and in the Office of the US Chief of Protocol.
First Native American Cabinet secretary
If confirmed by the Senate to become the next interior secretary, Haaland would be the first Native American Cabinet secretary. She is an enrolled member of the Pueblo of Laguna, and also has Jemez Pueblo heritage, according to the biography on her congressional website. Haaland made history in 2018 when she was elected as one of the two first female Native Americans in Congress. Haaland represents New Mexico’s 1st Congressional District, which covers most of Albuquerque. In 2016, Haaland traveled to North Dakota to take part in the protests over plans to build a pipeline underneath a key source of water for the Standing Rock Reservation. She was chair of New Mexico’s Democratic Party, and the first Native American woman in the country to lead a state party.
First woman to lead the US intelligence community
Haines would become the first woman to serve as director of national intelligence. Haines served as assistant to the president and principal deputy national security adviser to President Barack Obama. She chaired the National Security Council’s Deputies Committee, which is responsible for formulating the administration’s national security and foreign policy. Haines previously served as the deputy director of the Central Intelligence Agency. Avril was also legal adviser to the NSC. She served as deputy chief counsel to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee while Biden served as chairman.
First woman deputy defense secretary
Hicks would be the first woman to serve as deputy defense secretary if confirmed by the Senate. Hicks served in the Obama administration in a Senate-confirmed position as the principal deputy under secretary of defense for policy. In that role, Hicks was responsible for advising the under secretary of defense for policy and the secretary of defense on US national defense policy and strategy. Hicks also served as the deputy under secretary of defense for strategy, plans, and forces. She currently leads the Biden-Harris transition’s defense agency review team, and is the senior vice president and director of the international security program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
First Latino and immigrant as Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security
Mayorkas would be the first Latino and immigrant as Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security if confirmed by the Senate. He was deputy secretary of Homeland Security during the Obama administration, and served as the director of the Department of Homeland Security’s United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. While at USCIS, Mayorkas oversaw the implementation of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which was an executive action under Obama that protected young undocumented immigrants who came to the US as children from deportation. President Donald Trump moved to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program in 2017 but was ultimately blocked by the Supreme Court from doing so.
First Black man to lead the EPA
If confirmed by the Senate, Regan would be the second African American to lead the EPA. Lisa Jackson was the first to head the agency, during the Obama administration. North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, named Regan as the secretary of the state’s Department of Environmental Quality in January 2017. Regan previously led the Environmental Defense Fund’s efforts to combat the impacts of the climate crisis and air pollution, according to the state’s government website. He also worked at the EPA during the Clinton and Bush administrations.
First woman of color to chair the Council of Economic Advisers
Rouse would be the first woman of color to chair the Council of Economic Advisers if confirmed by the Senate. Rouse has served as the dean of the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs, as well as a professor of economics and public affairs at Princeton University. Rouse previously served as a member of President Barack Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers. She also worked at the National Economic Council in the Clinton administration as a special assistant to the president.
First woman of color as US Trade Representative
Tai would be the first woman of color to serve as US trade representative if confirmed by the Senate. Tai’s nomination will be seen as a clear sign that Biden is serious about his campaign promise to enforce trade rules on China. She is seen as an expert on China trade policy, and oversaw trade enforcement for China during the Obama administration. She currently is the top Democratic trade counsel for the House Ways and Means Committee. Tai played a key role in negotiating trade policy for Democrats in the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, which came under Trump’s administration and replaced the North American Free Trade Agreement.
First woman of color and first South Asian American as Director of the Office of Management and Budget
Tanden would be the first woman of color and first South Asian American to become director of the Office of Management and Budget. Tanden is the CEO and president of the left-leaning Center for American Progress, and is the CEO of the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Tanden previously served in the Obama and Clinton administrations. She was a senior adviser for health reform at the US Department of Health and Human Services, and also served as the director of domestic policy for the Obama campaign. She was the policy director for Hillary Clinton’s first presidential campaign, and worked in Clinton’s Senate office.
First woman as Treasury Secretary
Yellen would make history as the first woman to serve as Treasury secretary. Yellen already made history as the first woman to have chaired the Federal Reserve, and did so from 2014 to 2018. She previously served for four years as the vice chair of the board, and president and chief executive officer of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco for four years prior to that. Yellen was also chair of the White House Council of Economic Advisers from 1997 to 1999.