How key Biden nominees are expected to address energy, climate and trade once approved

Fulfilling a campaign promise to assemble a cabinet that reflects the diversity of the U.S. population, President Biden nominated one of the most diverse executive cabinets in history. His choices include a host of seasoned veterans of their reflective policy areas, many of whom he worked with in either the Obama administration or as a senator. The Senate is expected to move quickly to confirm his chosen nominees despite a heavy schedule including considering additional Covid-19 relief and former President Trump’s second impeachment trial. According to NAFEM’s legal team at Barnes & Thornburg, below are some of the nominees that will impact NAFEM policies and expectations of their priorities.

  • Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo: President Biden chose Rhode Island’s first female governor to lead his initiatives in this vast agency. Governor Raimondo impressed the president and his team when she was vetted as a potential vice-presidential choice. She’s developed a reputation as an innovative and effective leader who brought Rhode Island back from the worst unemployment rate of any state in the nation through investments in economic development, job training, infrastructure and small business loan programs to help encourage entrepreneurs. Her executive experience is expected to be a tremendous asset as she leads a department with a wide range of responsibilities.
  • Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm: Granholm, the former two-term Michigan governor, is tasked with fulfilling one of President Biden’s top priorities of transitioning U.S. industries to rely more on clean energy. Renewable energy incentives were a priority for Granholm as governor and she has considerable experience working with the automobile industry in achieving those objectives. She has long advocated for clean-energy investments that create good-paying union jobs.
  • EPA Administrator Michael Regan: Regan is a former associate vice president of the Environmental Defense Fund, a leading environmental organization. He most recently was secretary of the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality. Regan worked at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) during the democratic Clinton and republican Bush administrations where he led initiatives to improve energy efficiency and air quality and reduce pollution. He is expected to take a progressive stance on climate-change policy. Moreover, he is expected to highlight the impact of climate change on minority and low-income communities.
  • U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai: Most recently, Tai served as the chief trade lawyer for the House Ways and Means Committee. During this time, she played a critical role in negotiations for U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA). She previously worked in the U.S. Trade Representative’s general counsel’s office and was chief counsel for china trade enforcement. Tai’s reputation as a skilled negotiator, who speaks fluent Mandarin, is expected to play an instrumental role in recalibrating U.S. relations with China.
  • Special Envoy for Climate John Kerry: Former Secretary of State John Kerry will serve as the nation’s first special envoy for climate. This newly created cabinet-level position is a part of the National Security Council (NSC), which reflects the president’s intent to elevate climate- and energy-policy concerns as a consideration in forming national security policy. Kerry will have a more international relations aspect to his role that has been described as “climate Czar.”

Thus far, the Senate has confirmed: Avril Haines as director of national intelligence; Gen. Lloyd Austin as secretary of defense – the first African American Pentagon chief; and Janet Yellen as treasury secretary – the first woman to hold this role.
At press time, confirmation hearings are scheduled the week of Jan. 25 for Antony Blinken as secretary of state; Gina Raimondo as secretary of commerce; Alejandro Mayorkas as secretary of homeland security; Jennifer Granholm as secretary of energy; Peter Buttigieg as secretary of transportation; Denis McDonough as secretary of veterans’ affairs; Dr. Cecilia Rouse as chair of the Council of Economic Advisors; and Linda Thomas-Greenfield as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

Given the Senate’s busy dual-path schedule of confirming nominees and conducting the impeachment trial of former-president Trump, the Biden administration is naming assistant secretaries and department director-level civil servants that eventually need to be approved by Congress to interim deputy assistant director roles that do not require Senate confirmation. This allows the employees to resign their current roles and begin serving the new administration before the confirmation process is finalized, which can take up to a year. “Doing so allows the work of the government to proceed more quickly than under a typical transition,” said Jeff Longsworth, NAFEM legal counsel, Barnes & Thornburg. “It also should speed up eventual confirmation hearings since the nominees will have been in the role for some time and should have track records.”