U.S. President-elect Joe Biden speaks to reporters as he announces candidates and candidates during a press conference at his interim headquarters in Wilmington, Delaware on December 11, 2020.
Mike Segar | Reuters
WASHINGTON – President-elect Joe Biden introduced several of his candidates to head domestic affairs agencies on Friday, highlighting how members of his cabinet would use the powers of the federal government to help Americans in need.
Accompanied by Vice President-elect Kamala Harris at the event at a Wilmington, Delaware hotel, Biden began making brief remarks on the coronavirus pandemic before introducing his candidate to lead the Department of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack.
He also introduced his candidate for the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Rep. Marcia Fudge, D-Ohio; his candidate for Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Denis McDonough; and for US sales representative Katherine Tai.
Biden also announced that Susan Rice, a former national security adviser to President Barack Obama, has agreed to serve as director of the White House Home Affairs Council, a powerful position in the west wing that will give Rice broad influence on a number of issues .
Taken together, Biden said his candidates bring "deep experience and bold new thinking" to federal agencies and the White House. "Most of all, they know how the government can and should work for all Americans."
Biden stressed how any member of his cabinet would help Americans face multiple overlapping crises: the coronavirus pandemic, a deep recession, and an impending increase in evictions and food insecurity.
For example, Fudge will "use every lever she can to help the millions of Americans facing eviction – trying to pay their mortgage and find their way through this crisis," Biden said.
U.S. Representative Marcia Fudge speaks on December 11, 2020 after being named Secretary of Housing and Urban Development by U.S. President-elect Joe Biden (R) in Wilmington, Delaware.
Jim Watson | AFP | Getty Images
And Vilsack "knows the full range of resources available in the Department of Agriculture to provide immediate relief to those most in need and to address crises in rural America."
The nominees also made brief comments, emphasizing how various federal agencies would help a nationwide recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.
Rice spoke last and tied everything together.
United States President-elect Joe Biden (R) watches as Obama's former National Security Advisor Susan Rice makes remarks after being unveiled as Biden's decision to host his Home Affairs Council on December 11, 2020 at the Queen Theater in Wilmington, Delaware, to direct.
Chip Somodevilla | Getty Images
"Today we face a profound series of crises: a relentless pandemic, a troubled economy, urgent demands for racial justice and justice, a climate that needs healing, a democracy that needs fixing, and a world that needs renewed Americans for leadership ", she said.
"Our top priorities will be to end the pandemic and revitalize an economy that is for all, to bring dignity and humanity to our broken immigration system, to promote racial justice, justice and civil rights for all, and to ensure that healthcare is affordable and To be approachable and to educate and train Americans to compete and thrive in the 21st century, "Rice continued.
"I firmly believe that we can all move up or down together – absolutely all of us."
Just 40 days before his inauguration, Biden is putting together a cabinet that is unprecedented in its racial and gender diversity. Tai, Fudge, and Rice are all women of color.
Earlier this week, Biden announced that retired General Lloyd Austin was his decision to run the Pentagon, making Austin the first black man to ever be appointed Secretary of Defense.
However, Biden has come under heavy pressure from civil rights groups to add even more diversity to his cabinet, particularly nominating an Asian American for a top position in the cabinet.
On Friday, several groups representing Asian Americans and Pacific islanders released a joint statement criticizing "the remarkable absence of Asian American cabinet secretaries" in the Biden administration.
"President-elect Biden is well on the way to becoming the first president in over 20 years to fail to nominate an Asian American for the role of cabinet secretary in his administration," said the statement made by the National Council of the Asia Pacific has submitted to CNBC Americans.
But Asian Americans aren't the only group currently pressuring Biden to be stronger in his White House: on Tuesday, he and Harris met with leaders of senior civil rights groups, including the NAACP and the National Urban League.
They called on Biden to create a new position in the White House, a racial justice advisor who should be tasked with coordinating government-wide efforts to combat systemic racism.
Biden has so far refused to comment on the specific recommendations and inquiries he receives from lawyers. But he told CNN last week, "Every advocacy group out there is pushing for more and more of what they want. That's their job."
In the same interview, however, Biden also defended his cabinet selection, noting that they were already "the most diverse cabinet ever announced in American history".