President-elect Joe Biden on Friday introduced five additional Cabinet nominees to join his administration in January, tapping several alumni of the Obama administration.
The new members of his team, Biden said, will help him address the country's inequality, exacerbated by the coronavirus and the economic downturn. "These crises have ripped the blinders off the systemic racism in America," he said, noting that Black, Latino and Native Americans are more likely to die from COVID-19, and the unemployment gap between Black, Latino and white Americans.
Biden said he and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris knew the challenges they'd face but also "knew we could build a team that would meet this unique and challenging moment."
To oversee the Agriculture Department, Biden has chosen Tom Vilsack, the former head of the agency under President Barack Obama and a two-term governor of Iowa.
Many progressives had hoped to see Rep. Marcia Fudge, whom Biden has tapped to lead the Department of Housing and Urban Development, nominated as secretary of agriculture. Critics of Vilsack's nomination had hoped Fudge would diversify the typically white male-led department and focus better on food insecurity and the agency's historic abuse of minority farmers.
Fudge, Biden said, "understands how to manage challenges and forge solutions at a local level," as a former mayor.
Also announced Friday was Biden's nomination of Denis McDonough, a former White House chief of staff, to serve as secretary of veterans affairs. Susan Rice, also formerly of the Obama administration, has been tapped to direct the White House Domestic Policy Council.
Katherine Tai, if confirmed, will be U.S. trade representative — the first woman of color to serve in the post.
"To each of you on this team, you have my gratitude," Biden said in announcing his picks.
"And to the American people, help is on the way. I promise we're not going to let you down."