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Equity Forward's Tracking of the Biden-Harris Administration Transition

On November 7, 2020, President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris were announced winners of the 2020 U.S. presidential election. As the administrative transition unfolds, Equity Forward’s research team will track the names of nominees to key cabinet and leadership positions which have purview over our main issue areas regarding abortion, reproductive health and justice, and policies singularly impacting LGBTQ communities. 

How We are Categorizing Cabinet Member Candidates 

As cabinet members of the Biden-Harris administration are shortlisted and nominated, Equity Forward’s research team has coded each appointee with one of the below designations. These categorizations are not meant to be static, but rather, inform expectations around appointees and the policies under their purviews, which we will continue tracking. 

Green: This person has a clearly demonstrated history of advancing reproductive health, LGBTQ rights, and/or other human rights.

Yellow: This person has peripheral instances of involvement with efforts undermining reproductive health, LGBTQ rights, and/or other human rights; and/or this person has developed toward a more humane framework. 

Red: This person has a substantial and demonstrated history of attacking reproductive health, LGBTQ rights, and/or other human rights.

Category to be Determined: Initial research provided insufficient information to allow EF to apply a rating to this candidate. 

 

Green

Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)

Joshua Sharfstein, FDA Commissioner: Joshua Sharfstein has extensive medical, public health, and healthcare policy experience stemming from leadership roles at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, and the City of Baltimore. Sharfstein was appointed as the Principal Deputy Commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration by the Obama administration. Sharfstein has publicly condemned the inhumane treatment of people detained by U.S. Customs and Border Patrol. Sharfstein authored public commentary supporting the use of fetal tissue in research, abortion, and contraception access. AP News reported Sharfstein as a potential pick for FDA Commissioner on December 3, 2020. 

Xavier Becerra, HHS Secretary: Xavier Becerra has extensive political experience stemming from twelve terms in Congress within the U.S. House of Representatives and one term as a representative in the California State Legislature. Becerra has served as California’s Attorney General since 2017 and was announced as Biden’s pick for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) on December 6, 2020. As a former U.S. Representative, Becerra acted with a strong reproductive and human rights voting record. As California’s Attorney General, Becerra staunchly defended reproductive rights and immigrant rights. Becerra’s candidacy is now listed on the Biden-Harris transition website.

Vivek Murthy, Surgeon General: Vivek Murthy has extensive public health and presidential advisement experience stemming from roles as the U.S. Surgeon General and as a public health advisee within the Obama administration. Murthy served as a public health advisor to the Biden-Harris team in March 2020 on the campaign trail and now leads the Biden-Harris Transition COVID-19 Advisory Board. During his time as U.S. Surgeon General, Murthy publicly condemned domestic and international use of conversion therapy. Murthy actively speaks out against political ideology taking precedence over evidence-based science at the federal level and has signaled support for access to contraception and choice in reproductive health. On December 3, 2020 Politico reported that Murthy will return to his role as surgeon general, with an expanded responsibility of acting as the “top medical expert and public face” of the Biden-Harris administration's response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Murthy’s candidacy is now listed on the Biden-Harris transition website

Department of Justice (DOJ) 

Sally Yates, Attorney General: Sally Yates is a 27-year veteran of the Department of Justice, formerly serving as Acting Attorney General, Deputy Attorney General, and U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia. Yates, who was fired for refusing to defend Trump’s Muslim travel ban, has demonstrated support for reproductiveLGBTQ, and human rights.

Lisa Monaco, Deputy Attorney General: Lisa Monaco is a 15-year veteran of the Department of Justice and was recently President Obama’s advisor on homeland security and counterterrorism. Monaco has been praised by organizations for reproductive and LGBTQ rights, and she has upheld human rights by speaking out against the injustices of the Trump administration. Monaco's candidacy was reported on January 6, 2021 and is listed on the Biden-Harris transition website.

Vanita Gupta, Associate Attorney General: Vanita Gupta is currently the president and CEO of The Leadership Conference On Civil and Human Rights. Her most recent government position was Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division at the Justice Department. Throughout her career, Gupta has affirmed her strong support of reproductive, LGBTQ, and human rights. Gupta's candidacy was reported on January 6, 2021 and is listed on the Biden-Harris transition website.

Kristen Clarke, Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights: Kristen Clarke is the president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and has prior experience with the Justice Department as a trial attorney for its Civil Rights division. Throughout her career, Clarke has demonstrated strong support for reproductive, LGBTQ, and human rights. Clarke's candidacy was reported on January 6, 2021 and is listed on the Biden-Harris transition website.

Department of Homeland Security (DHS)

Alejandro Mayorkas, DHS Secretary: Alejandro Mayorkas held leadership roles in the Department of Homeland Security during the Obama Administration, having served as deputy secretary and director of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Mayorkas is the son of Cuban-Jewish immigrants who fled the Castro revolution. He mentioned his lived experience with U.S. immigration as a guiding influence for his new role. Immigrant rights advocates have praised Mayorkas’ appointment to lead DHS. Mayorkas candidacy was reported on November 23, 2020 and is listed on the Biden-Harris transition website

State Department

Antony Blinken, Secretary of State: Antony Blinken has decades of foreign policy experience and is a longtime adviser to Joe Biden. He was U.S. Deputy Secretary of State under President Obama. While he demonstrates interventionist foreign policy tendencies, Blinken has pledged commitment to protecting reproductive and LGBTQ rights during the Biden-Harris administration. Blinken’s candidacy was reported on November 22, 2020 and is now listed on the Biden-Harris transition website.

United States Agency for International Development (USAID) 

Samantha Power, USAID Administrator: On January 13, 2021, President-elect Joe Biden announced Samantha Power as his official nominee for USAID administrator. Power was influential in shaping the Obama-Biden administration’s foreign policy agenda, most notably as Ambassador to the United Nations. She has championed workplace protections and international safety for LGBTQ communities and signaled support for reproductive rights, but her overall human rights record has received mixed reviews. Power's candidacy is now listed on the Biden-Harris transition website.

U.S. Mission to the United Nations

Linda Thomas Greenfield, Ambassador to the United Nations: Linda Thomas-Greenfield is a 35-year veteran of the State Department, where she previously served as Assistant Secretary of State for African AffairsDirector General of the Foreign Service, and numerous other roles. Thomas-Greenfield has signaled support for reproductive and LGBTQ rights. Thomas-Greenfield’s candidacy was reported on November 23, 2020 and is listed on the Biden-Harris transition website

Yellow

Department of Justice 

Doug Jones, Attorney General: As a former U.S. Attorney who successfully prosecuted white supremacists, Sen. Doug Jones has the relevant experience to run the Justice Department; however, he has a somewhat mixed record on reproductive rights. Although Jones has signaled support for abortion in most circumstances and expanding contraception, he has supported the Hyde Amendment and voted for the medically inaccurate Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act. Jones has signaled strong support for LGBTQ rights and human rights.

Red

 

Category To Be Determined 

Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) 

Luciana Borio, FDA Commissioner: Luciana Borio is a medical doctor with expertise in infectious disease and pandemic response. With nearly a decade of federal work history, she has played vital roles in the nation’s response to the Ebola pandemic, Zika outbreak, and influenza. Currently she is a member of president-elect Biden’s coronavirus taskforce. AP News named Borio as a potential candidate on December 3, 2020. Initial research provided insufficient information to allow EF to apply a rating to this candidate as of 12/16/20. 

Department of Justice 

Merrick Garland, Attorney General: Merrick Garland, a federal appeals judge for the influential D.C. circuit, is well-known for his unsuccessful nomination process to the Supreme Court due to opposition by Senate Republicans. He has no discernable record on reproductive or LGBTQ rights, but he has received mixed reviews for his decisions regarding human rights. NPR was the first to report Merrick Garland as President-Elect Biden’s potential pick for attorney general on November 20, 2020. Initial research provided insufficient information to allow EF to apply a rating to this candidate as of 12/17/20. Garland's candidacy was reported on January 6, 2021 and is listed on the Biden-Harris transition website.

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