News Release

Biden Can Have a Progressive Cabinet

MAX MORAN,  moran@cepr.net
MIRANDA LITWAK, litwak@therevolvingdoorproject.org@revolvingdoorDC
Moran and Litwak are researchers at the Revolving Door Project. They just wrote the piece “Biden’s cabinet could do a lot – if he resists the urge to fill it with ‘consensus’ picks” for The Guardian.

They write that “by a staggering 2 to 1 margin, voters of all stripes — including Republicans — say that Biden should not hire big business executives to run his government.”

They note that Biden has a series of options so that he doesn’t have to appease [Senate Majority Leader Mitch] McConnell, such as using the Vacancies Act, “which lets the president temporarily make a senior staffer at a given agency the secretary, or bring a different Senate-confirmed individual (like the many Democratic commissioners at independent agencies like the Federal Trade Commission) into the cabinet job temporarily. He can also make appointments while the Senate is in recess, as presidents of both parties do all the time. Biden could even force the Senate into recess by playing a bit of constitutional hardball – the kind of hardball McConnell plays constantly.

“Biden’s treasury department can implement financial regulations to impede investments in the fossil fuel industry and reallocate funds to tackle Covid-19 and provide support to the most harmed Americans. Biden’s justice department can prosecute Big Oil companies or seek breakups of corporate monopolies. Biden’s labor department can enforce OSHA rules and crack down on wage theft like never before, making sure people’s hard-earned wages actually make it into their pockets. His IRS can focus on ensuring the rich pay their fair share, instead of auditing poor Americans making mistakes on their taxes. He can even, with one directive to his acting education secretary, cancel 95 percent of student loan debt. There are at least 277 actions broadly popular within both wings of the Democratic party which Biden could take on day one of his administration. And he needn’t even walk near a McConnell-controlled Senate to do them.

“Yet all of these actions depend on Biden appointing committed soldiers for the public good — not corporate allies. A treasury secretary Gina Raimondo would prioritize slashing aid to struggling cities in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, as she has in her home state. If ex-Googlers like Roger Ferguson or Eric Schmidt pepper the executive branch, it will undercut the authority of the most important antitrust suit in a generation. Appointing Seth Harris to labor secretary will give the intellectual architect of California’s Prop 22 an insider’s angle to spread pain for gig-economy workers.

“Stopping these people must be a priority for the Democratic base. Activists can and should make clear to Biden that their repayment for hard work should be a highly-motivated and public interest-minded executive branch.”