By EDDIE BERNICE JOHNSON
U.S. House of Representatives
Through the establishment of separation of powers dating back to 1787, the framers created the federal executive branch of government. For more than two centuries, United States’ presidents have served as our chief of the executive branch; being surrounded by specialized advisors tasked with providing sage counsel and insight, most commonly dubbed as “the cabinet.” And since the formation of the cabinet, advisors – and the presidents they serve – have lacked the diversity reflected in the mosaic fabric of our beloved nation.
A diverse cabinet offers a multitude of benefits. Such examples include varying degrees of thought, experience, and the development of more culturally competent policies, just to name a few. Ideally, cabinet members must be able to draw from their background using it as a backdrop to guide the president in their decision-making through an equity lens. And hopefully, this vantage point would be one that examines the impact of complex policy goals on our underserved and marginalized communities. Therefore, to achieve these types of lofty objectives, America’s Commander-In-Chief should prioritize the nomination of candidates with diverse qualifications that better equip them with personal and professional life skills to achieve unity through inclusivity.
President-elect Biden has an opportunity to make history by nominating people of color, women, persons with disabilities, or from different religious viewpoints as well as LGBTQ individuals to render service in his cabinet. Though each candidate is subject to confirmation, he has already done so thus far by nominating Janet Yellen, who would be the country’s first female Treasury Secretary; Alejandro Mayorkas, the first Latino and immigrant nominated as the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security; and Linda Thomas-Greenfield, a Black career diplomat who grew up in segregated Louisiana, as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations.
However, several key positions in the administration remain unfilled, including the Secretaries of Agriculture, Defense, Justice, Housing and Urban Development, Health and Human Services and many others. We must ensure that the current pattern of placing diverse individuals in these roles continues. To demonstrate my commitment to a diverse Biden-Harris cabinet, I penned a letter along with my Congressional Black Caucus PAC colleagues in support of Congresswoman Marcia L. Fudge of Ohio for Secretary of Agriculture. A career public servant and trailblazer for women of color, Congresswoman Fudge is uniquely positioned for success in such a role as a champion for our nation’s farmers, Women, Infants and Children – known as WIC, as she will be also a leader for those facing food insecurities living in food deserts.
Nominees will likely face a grueling confirmation process in a divided, polarized Senate. It is therefore crucial that they demonstrate beyond any sensible doubt that they are ready and able to serve on day one of the new administration. As has been made clear by President-elect Biden, the cabinet should be prepared to represent and work on behalf of all Americans, not just those who voted for them.
U.S. Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson is the ranking member of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology and the highest-ranking Texan on the House Committee on Transportation & Infrastructure. She represents the 30th Congressional District of Texas.