BREAKING NEWS: Joe Biden picks former Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen to be first female Treasury Secretary and brings back John Kerry as climate czar as Democrats’ cabinet takes shape

  • Yellen would be the first female Treasury secretary
  • She will encounter a shaky U.S. economy, weakened by the pandemic recession 
  • Has ties to Fed chair Jerome Powell and chaired the Fed from 2014-2018 
  • The Biden transition announced that Kerry will serve as climate czar  
  • The former secretary of state and former presidential nominee helped negotiate the Iran nuclear deal and Paris climate pact 
  • He is one of several former Obama Administration picks 
  • Mayorkas will take over agency sent reeling after child separation at the border
  • Linda Thomas-Greenfield to be nominated ambassador to the United Nations
  • She oversaw Africa policy in Obama administration 
  • Biden will nominate Tony Blinken as secretary of state 

President-elect Joe Biden has chosen former Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen to serve as treasury secretary, a pivotal role in which she would help shape and direct his economic policies at a perilous time, according to a person familiar with the transition plans.

Yellen, who is widely admired in the financial world, would be the first woman to lead the Treasury Department in a line stretching back to Alexander Hamilton in 1789. Her nomination was confirmed to The Associated Press by a person who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss Biden’s plans.

An official announcement is expected next week.  

As treasury secretary, Yellen would face a shaky U.S. economy, weakened by the pandemic recession and now in the grip of a surging viral epidemic that is intensifying pressure on businesses and individuals. Concern is rising that the economy could slide into a “double-dip” recession this winter as states and cities reimpose restrictions on businesses and consumers stay at home to avoid contracting the disease.

President-elect Joe Biden has chosen former Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen to serve as treasury secretary

A path-breaking figure in the male-dominated economics field, Yellen, 74, was also the first woman to serve as Fed chair, from 2014 to 2018. She later became an adviser to Biden’s presidential campaign in an unusual departure for a former Fed leader that thrust her into the political arena.

Yellen, 74, was also the first woman to serve as Fed chair, from 2014 to 2018. She later became an adviser to Biden’s presidential campaign in an unusual departure for a former Fed leader that thrust her into the political arena. 

The treasury post would add another new chapter to Yellen’s broad and varied career in financial policymaking. As secretary, she would represent the administration in global financial affairs and lead a sprawling department whose responsibilities range from the government’s finances and tax collections to global currency markets, bank regulation and the printing of money. She would also be a key adviser to Biden and a public spokesperson for his economic agenda.

Yellen would also take on the formidable task of helping negotiate economic policy with Sen. Mitch McConnell, the Kentucky Republican who will remain Senate majority leader if his party wins at least one of two Senate runoff elections in Georgia in early January. 

Another woman, fed governor Lael Brainard, had also been in consideration. Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s name was also floated weeks ago, but Biden must take care about plucking away senators given the close Senate margin, with two runoff elections and Democrats at 48 seats.

Biden is bringing back Secretary of State John Kerry as part of a cabinet that is high on former Obama Administration officials as well as racial and ethnic diversity. 

Kerry, who served as secretary of state under Obama and the Democratic Party nominee in 2004, is to be Biden’s climate czar. The two men overlapped for years in the Senate and shared a focus on international issues.

Kerry also helped negotiate the Paris climate accord as well as the Iran nuclear deal, which both became targets for President Trump.

He will be Special Presidential Envoy for Climate and will serve on the White House national security counsel.

In this Feb. 1, 2020, file photo Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden smiles as former Secretary of State John Kerry, left, takes the podium to speak at a campaign stop at the South Slope Community Center in North Liberty, Iowa

Bringing Kerry in as a close advisor demonstrates there are no hard feelings after the former Massachusetts senator committed a flub on the campaing trail after Biden faced an early stumble in the primaries.

Kerry was forced to knock down a ‘f***ing’ false report that he might run for president after he was overheard in an Iowa hotel lobby talking about contingencies if rival Sen. Bernie Sanders prevailed. ‘As I told the reporter, I am absolutely not running for President. Any report otherwise is f***ing (or categorically) false,’ Kerry wrote in a tweet he immediately deleted. 

Biden is moving to fill out his national security team with a raft of appointments to top positions that signal his intent to repudiate the Trump administration’s ‘America First’ doctrine.

The six picks announced on Monday, almost all of them alumni of the Obama administration, represent a fundamental shift away from President Donald Trump´s policies and personnel selections. They also mark a return to a more traditional approach to America´s relations with the rest of the world and reflect Biden´s campaign promises to have his Cabinet reflect the diversity of the American population.

In choosing foreign policy veterans, Biden is seeking to upend Trump´s war on the so-called ‘deep state’ that saw an exodus of career officials from government. He will nominate his longtime adviser Antony Blinken to be secretary of state, lawyer Alejandro Mayorkas to be homeland security secretary, Linda Thomas-Greenfield to be ambassador to the United Nations, Jake Sullivan to be his national security adviser, Avril Haines to be Sullivan’s deputy, and former Secretary of State John Kerry to be his climate change envoy.

The choices also suggest Biden intends to make good on campaign promises to have his Cabinet reflect the diversity of the American population with Greenfield, a Black woman, at the helm of the U.S. Mission to the United Nations and Mayorkas, a Cuban-American lawyer who will be the first Latino to lead Homeland Security.

They ‘are experienced, crisis-tested leaders who are ready to hit the ground running on day one,’ the transition said in a statement. ‘These officials will start working immediately to rebuild our institutions, renew and reimagine American leadership to keep Americans safe at home and abroad, and address the defining challenges of our time – from infectious disease, to terrorism, nuclear proliferation, cyber threats, and climate change.’

Said Biden ally Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.): ‘Beyond their decades of work in national security and foreign relations, these nominees are genuinely good people and team players who will work tirelessly to advance U.S. interests and values.’ 

Linda Thomas-Greenfield, will be Biden’s nominee for ambassador to the UN

Alejandro Mayorkas is Biden’s nominee to run the Homeland Security Department, an agency that faced controversy over child separation at the border

Biden plans to nominate Antony Blinken to be secretary of state

 Antony Blinken’s nomination at state avoids potential controversy.

Former UN Ambassador Susan Rice would have faced significant GOP opposition and likely rejection in the Senate. She has long been a target of Republicans, including for statements she made after the deadly 2012 attacks on Americans in Benghazi, Libya.

Coons, another potential nominee, would have brought headaches through a departure from the Senate as other Democratic senators are being considered for administrative posts and the party is hoping to win back the Senate. Control hangs on the result of two runoff elections in Georgia in January.  

In making the announcements, Biden moved forward with plans to fill out his government even as Trump refuses to concede defeat in the Nov. 3 election, has pursued baseless legal challenges in several key states and has worked to stymie the transition process.

Mayorkas would take over an agency hit with controversy over the Trump administration’s child separation policy at the border in 2019

The stakes of a smooth transition are especially high this year because Biden will take office amid the worst pandemic in more than a century, which will likely require a full government response to contain.

Perhaps the best known of the bunch is Kerry, who made climate change one of his top priorities while serving as Obama’s secretary of state.

‘America will soon have a government that treats the climate crisis as the urgent national security threat it is,’ Kerry said. ‘I´m proud to partner with the president-elect, our allies, and the young leaders of the climate movement to take on this crisis as the president´s climate envoy.’

Sullivan, who at 43 will be one of the youngest national security advisers in history, was a top aide to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton before becoming then-Vice President Biden’s national security adviser. He said the president-elect had ‘taught me what it takes to safeguard our national security at the highest levels of our government.’

‘Now, he has asked me to serve as his national security adviser,’ Sullivan said. ‘In service, I will do everything in my power to keep our country safe.’

The posts to be held by Kerry, Sullivan and Haines do not require Senate confirmation.

Blinken, 58, served as deputy secretary of state and deputy national security adviser during the Obama administration and has close ties with Biden. If nominated and confirmed, he would be a leading force in the incoming administration´s bid to reframe the U.S. relationship with the rest of the world after four years in which President Donald Trump questioned longtime alliances.

Blinken recently participated in a national security briefing with Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris and has weighed in publicly on notable foreign policy issues in Egypt and Ethiopia.

Blinken would inherit a deeply demoralized and depleted career workforce at the State Department. Trump´s two secretaries of state, Rex Tillerson and Mike Pompeo, offered weak resistance to the administration´s attempts to gut the agency, which were thwarted only by congressional intervention.

Although the department escaped massive proposed cuts of more than 30% in its budget for three consecutive years, it has seen a significant number of departures from its senior and rising mid-level ranks, from which many diplomats have opted to retire or leave the foreign service given limited prospects for advancements under an administration that they believe does not value their expertise.

A graduate of Harvard University and Columbia Law School and a longtime Democratic foreign policy presence, Blinken has aligned himself with numerous former senior national security officials who have called for a major reinvestment in American diplomacy and renewed emphasis on global engagement.

‘Democracy is in retreat around the world, and unfortunately it´s also in retreat at home because of the president taking a two-by-four to its institutions, its values and its people every day,’ Blinken told The Associated Press in September. ‘Our friends know that Joe Biden knows who they are. So do our adversaries. That difference would be felt on day one.’

Blinken served on the National Security Council during the Clinton administration before becoming staff director for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee when Biden was chair of the panel. In the early years of the Obama administration, Blinken returned to the NSC and was then-Vice President Biden´s national security adviser before he moved to the State Department to serve as deputy to Secretary of State John Kerry.

Biden has pledged to build the most diverse government in modern history, and he and his team often speak about their desire for his administration to reflect America. He is being watched to see whether he will make history by nominating the first woman to lead the Pentagon, the Treasury Department or the Department of Veterans Affairs or the first African American at the top of the Defense Department, the Interior Department or the Treasury Department.

Ron Klain, Biden´s incoming chief of staff, said Sunday the Trump administration´s refusal to clear the way for Biden´s team to have access to key information about agencies and federal dollars for the transition is taking its toll on planning, including the Cabinet selection process. Trump´s General Services Administration has yet to acknowledge that Biden won the election – a determination that would remove those roadblocks.

‘We´re not in a position to get background checks on Cabinet nominees. And so there are definite impacts. Those impacts escalate every day,’ Klain told ABC´s ‘This Week.’


Associated Press writers Julie Pace in Washington, Alexandra Jaffe in Wilmington, Delaware, and Bill Barrow in Atlanta contributed to this report.

FILE – In this Jan. 9, 2014, file photo Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Linda Thomas-Greenfield, right, testifies during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington. President-elect Joe Biden is expected to tap longtime diplomat Linda Thomas-Greenfield as the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File)

FILE – In this Jan. 9, 2020, file photo former Secretary of State John Kerry smiles while speaking at a campaign stop to support Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden at the Biden for President Fort Dodge Office in Fort Dodge, Iowa. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)

FILE – In this Thursday, Sept. 29, 2016, file photo, Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Syria. Blinken is the leading contender to become President-elect Joe Biden’s nominee for secretary of state, according to multiple people familiar with the Biden team’s planning. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana, File)

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