President-elect Joe Biden has formally announced more key health team appointees and nominees to join his administration when his presidency begins in January. The new picks include the first woman to lead national intelligence, the first Latino and immigrant to lead the Department of Homeland Security, and the first ever climate change envoy.
A consistent theme throughout Biden’s picks is internationalism and many of the selections will be already well-known to foreign diplomats around the world. Most share a belief of the importance in strong US international allies and multilateral organizations, but also are wary of foreign interventions in conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq.
“As all of you know, I know that out of our collective pain, we’re going to find a collective purpose to control the pandemic, to save lives and to heal as a nation,” president-elect Biden said during a press conference this week in which he announced his new nominees.
“Today, I’m pleased to announce a team that is going to do just that. It’s a team of world-class experts at the top of their fields, crisis tested, defined by a deep sense of duty, honor and patriotism who are already ready to jump in. They’ve been advising me, many of them for a long time, and they’re going to be ready on day one to spare not a single effort to get this pandemic under control. So we can get back to work, get back to our lives, get back to our loved ones.
“They’ll lead the COVID-19 response across the government to accelerate testing, fix our supply chain and distribute the vaccine. The work of my economic team, because controlling the pandemic, delivering better healthcare and reviving the economy go hand in hand.
“They’ll work with my foreign policy and national security teams because we can’t only beat the virus here at home, it must be beaten everywhere, or it comes back to haunt us again.”
For secretary of health and education, Biden announced that he was selecting current Attorney General of California, Xavier Becerra. Becerra has been nominated at a time when the coronavirus pandemic is at one of the worst stages in the US since it began and the 62-year-old Latino will have a turbulent first few months at the helm of the government’s health agencies.
“Javier spent a career fighting to expand access to healthcare, reducing racial health disparities, protecting the Affordable Care Act and take on powerful special interests who prey on profit off of people’s health from opioid manufacturers to big tobacco,” Biden said of Becerra at the speech.
“During this pandemic he’ll protect the safety of the frontline healthcare workers, rooted out the fraud from the bad actors to take advantage of people. And he stood up for homeowners trying to pay their mortgages during this devastating economic crisis.
“There are things he’s already fought for and accomplished in many cases. And as secretary, HHS secretary, he will skilfully oversee the CDC and the FDA, Medicare and Medicaid,” he said.
Biden also announced that he asked Dr Anthony Fauci to be his chief medical advisor, who has since said he accepted the offer as soon as he heard it. Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has endured a strained relationship with President Trump since the outbreak of the pandemic, with Trump threatening to fire Fauci after November’s elections.
“I said yes right on the spot,” Fauci told the Today Show’s Savannah Guthrie.
During the conference, Biden also announced 54-year-old Jeffrey Zients as coordinator of the Covid-19 response team. Zients was previously director of national economic council for President Obama, as well as acting director for the office of management and budget.
Biden also announced Dr. Vivek Murthy as surgeon general of the US, a man Biden claimed could do any of the jobs he was selecting nominees for. Murthy also served as surgeon general under Obama, a period during which he focused on the opioid crisis and threats to America’s mental health.
“Covid-19 is a mass casualty. For families and friends left behind its a gaping hole in your heart that will never fully heal. As a country, we’ve been living with this pandemic for so long, we’re at risk of becoming numb to its toll on all of us,” Biden said at the conference.
“We’re resigned to feel that there’s nothing we can do and we can’t trust one another. That we must accept death, pain and sorrow. We’re in the midst of this deadly pandemic that’s infected almost 15 million Americans. One out of every 22 people in our country, often with devastating consequences of health,” he said.
“At this very moment, what is the outgoing administration asking the Supreme Court to do in the United States Supreme Court? To repeal the entirety of the Affordable Care Act when we need it most. A law that’s on the front lines against the pandemic, protects more than a hundred million Americans who live with pre-existing conditions, which will increase now including those with lung scarring and heart damage as a consequence of COVID-19.”