Biden Begins Transition But Cabinet Picks Are Weeks Away

President-elect Joe Biden is launching his transition efforts to shape the new administration, but he is still weeks away from making cabinet nominations, his transition team said Sunday.

With the election called just Saturday, Biden has only begun to focus on the transition and has not yet started working through potential nominees in depth, several people familiar with the planning said.

His transition is likely to follow a calendar similar to Barack Obama’s in 2008, when almost all nominations were announced in December. The one exception then, in the middle of a financial crisis, was Treasury Department nominee Tim Geithner, who was announced on November 24.

Given the current health and economic crises, the transition team is prioritizing filling senior roles responsible for coordinating the pandemic response.

Biden will, though, quickly begin building his White House staff. Transition co-chair Ted Kaufman, 81, Biden’s longtime Senate chief of staff who filled his Senate seat after he became vice president, is likely to take on a role like counselor to the president, two people familiar said.

The transition team did not comment on Kaufman’s future role and Kaufman did not respond to a request for comment Sunday.

Some people close to the Biden transition have recommended that he not begin making nominations until the Electoral College meets on Dec. 14 to finalize the presidential race. But the question of which party controls the Senate will still be up in the air, because both Georgia Senate races are going to runoffs on Jan. 5.

That affects a number of his choices for positions that require Senate confirmation. The nominees may change if he is facing a Democratic-controlled Senate that would make confirmation easier, or a Republican Senate that may be more willing to start the year with a confirmation battle.

He needs at least 50 Democrats in the Senate, effectively putting them in the majority with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris as the tiebreaker.

Biden’s timeline is also somewhat complicated by President Donald Trump’s refusal to concede the election and his plan to mount legal challenges to the results in key states that gave Biden more than the 270 Electoral College votes he needed to claim the White House.

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