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Biden names acting agency heads as key Cabinet nominees remain unconfirmed

Posted January 20, 2021 4:47 p.m. EST
Updated January 20, 2021 8:18 p.m. EST

— President Joe Biden on Wednesday announced a slate of acting agency heads after taking office without a single one of his Cabinet nominees in place and confirmed by the US Senate.

"These individuals, nearly all of whom are career civil servants, will temporarily lead federal agencies while Cabinet nominees continue moving through the confirmation process," White House officials said in a statement.

Later Wednesday evening, the Senate voted to confirm Biden's first Cabinet nominee. Avril Haines, who was a national security official in the Barack Obama administration, became the first woman to step into the role of director of national intelligence.

The Biden team had previously declined to publicly announce the officials who would take over departments in a temporary capacity because of concerns the Trump administration could attempt to thwart or complicate their work.

The Republican-led Senate, amid the coronavirus pandemic and heightened security around the US Capitol following the recent deadly riot, had been slower to schedule confirmation hearings for Biden's nominees than it has for previous presidents. Five of Biden's national security Cabinet nominees, including Haines, faced Senate panels on Tuesday as part of the first step in the confirmation process.

Biden said Wednesday that he was not concerned that key nominees hadn't yet been confirmed.

"I'm confident we can move quickly," the President told reporters at the White House.

Vice President Kamala Harris on Wednesday swore in three new Democratic senators on Wednesday afternoon, which officially gave Democrats control of the Senate and could accelerate the confirmation timeline. Democrats will now be able to confirm Biden's nominees without Republican support.

David Cohen, a deputy director of the CIA in the last years of the Obama administration, will serve as acting CIA director. Cohen is Biden's pick for deputy director of the CIA, and the President's choice for CIA director is veteran diplomat William Burns.

David Norquist, the deputy secretary of Defense, will serve as acting Defense secretary. Biden's pick for the role is retired Gen. Lloyd Austin, the former commander of the US Central Command.

David Huizenga, the National Nuclear Security Administration associate principal deputy administrator, will serve as the acting head of the Department of Energy. Biden's nominee for the role is former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm.

Norris Cochran, the deputy assistant secretary of budget in the Department of Health and Human Services, will serve as the acting head of HHS. The President has chosen California Attorney General Xavier Becerra for the role.

David Pekoske, the administrator of the Transportation Security Administration, will serve as the acting head of the Department of Homeland Security. Biden's nominee for the role is Alejandro Mayorkas, who was a deputy secretary of Homeland Security during the Obama administration.

Monty Wilkinson, a career Justice Department lawyer and former Eric Holder deputy chief of staff, will be acting attorney general. Biden's pick to lead the Justice Department is Merrick Garland, a federal judge on the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit whom President Barack Obama nominated to the Supreme Court in 2016. Senate Republicans blocked Garland's confirmation to the high court.

Al Stewart, the deputy assistant secretary for operations at the Department of Labor, will be the acting head of the department. Biden's pick for Labor secretary is Boston Mayor Marty Walsh.

Dan Smith, a career foreign service officer who is the director of the Foreign Service Institute, will be the acting secretary of State. The President's pick for the role is Antony Blinken, who was deputy secretary of state in the Obama administration.

Andy Baukol, the principal deputy assistant secretary for international monetary policy at the Treasury Department, will be the acting Treasury Secretary. Biden has picked Janet Yellen, the former chair of the Federal Reserve, to lead the department.

Katy Kale, who served as the chief of staff of the US General Services Administration under Obama, will serve as the acting head of the GSA.

Steve Jurczyk, who was the associate administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, will serve as the acting head of NASA.

Ann Eilers, the deputy chairman for management & budget at the National Endowment for the Arts, will serve as its acting head.

Adam Wolfson, the assistant chairman for programs at the National Endowment for the Humanities, will serve as its acting head.

Rob Fairweather, a deputy associate director at the Office of Management and Budget, will serve as the OMB's acting head. Biden's pick for the role is Neera Tanden, the CEO and president of the left-leaning Center for American Progress.

Regina LaBelle, who was the chief of staff in the Office of National Drug Control Policy in the Obama administration, will serve as its acting head.

Kathleen McGettigan, the chief management officer at the Office of Personnel Management, will serve as its acting head.

Tami Perriello, who serves as the Small Business Administration's chief financial officer, will serve as the acting head of the SBA. Biden's pick for this role is Isabel Guzman, the director of California's Office of the Small Business Advocate.

Andrew Saul, the Social Security Administration commissioner, will serve as the SSA's acting head.

Gloria Steele, who served as deputy assistant administrator at the US Agency for International Development, will serve as USAID's acting head. Biden's pick for the role is Samantha Power, former US Ambassador to the United Nations.

Dev Jagadesan, the deputy general counsel at US International Development Finance Corporation, will serve as its acting head.

Richard Mills, who serves as deputy representative of the United States of America to the United Nations, will serve as the acting head of the US Mission to the United Nations. Biden's pick for this role is career diplomat Linda Thomas-Greenfield.

Maria Pagan, the deputy general counsel in the Office of the United States Trade Representative, will serve as the acting head of the Office of the US Trade Representative. The President's pick for this role is Katherine Tai, who oversaw trade enforcement for China during the Obama administration.

Later on Wednesday, the White House announced more acting agency heads.

Dave Uejio, the chief strategy officer at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, will be its acting head.

Kevin Shea, the administrator of the US Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, will be the acting agriculture secretary. Biden's pick for the role is Tom Vilsack, who served as agriculture secretary for the entirety of Obama's time in the White House.

Wynn Coggins, the deputy assistant secretary for administration at the Commerce Department, will be the acting head of the department. The President's pick for commerce secretary is Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo.

Phil Rosenfelt, the deputy general counsel for program service at the Department of Education, will be the department's acting head. Biden has chosen Miguel Cardona, Connecticut's commissioner of education, for the role.

Matt Ammonn, who has worked in the Department of Housing and Urban Development, will be the acting head of the department. Biden's pick to run the department is Rep. Marcia Fudge of Ohio.

Scott de la Vega, an associate solicitor for general law at the Interior Department, will be the acting interior secretary. The President's nominee for the role is Rep. Deb Haaland of New Mexico.

Lana Hurdle, a deputy assistant secretary at the US Department of Transportation, will be the acting transportation secretary. Biden's choice for the role is former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg.

Dat Tran, who serves as a principal deputy assistant secretary at the Department of Veterans Affairs, will be the acting head of the VA. Biden's pick to run the department is Denis McDonough, who was Obama's chief of staff.

Jane Nishida, a principal deputy assistant administrator at the Environmental Protection Agency, will be the acting head of the agency. Biden's pick for EPA administrator is Michael Regan, North Carolina's Department of Environmental Quality secretary.

Carol Spahn, a former Peace Corps country director in Malawi, will be the acting head of the Peace Corps.

Kelu Chao, Voice of America's program director, will be the acting head of the US Agency for Global Media.

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