What’s At Stake For Texas With A Joe Biden Cabinet

Who the president chooses as homeland security secretary, U.S. trade representative and ambassador to Mexico will all be important to Texans.

By Michael Marks & Shelly BrisbinNovember 24, 2020 1:50 pm

On Monday, the Biden administration announced its picks for several cabinet positions. Most are veterans of the Obama administration, and there are several “firsts” on the list.

Cabinet picks so far include Alejandro Mayorkas, who, if confirmed, would be the first Latino to lead the Department of Homeland Security; Linda Thomas- Greenfield as ambassador to the United Nations; John Kerry as a special envoy for climate; and Avril Haines, who would be the first woman to be the director of national intelligence.

Richard Pineda is director of the Sam Donaldson Center for Communication at the University of Texas-El Paso. He told Texas Standard that President-elect Joe Biden’s choices so far “communicate stability.”

Pineda says the picks might not be the choices of conservatives in the United States, but that U.S. allies around the world will likely seem them as a welcome return to the way American governments approached foreign policy prior to President Donald Trump.

Texans will have a stake in who Biden chooses for jobs like ambassador to Mexico and U.S. trade representative, Pineda said. 

“We’ve got a lot on the line when it comes to trade with Mexico,” Pineda said.

Picks like Mayorkas as Homeland Security secretary will also be crucial for Texas, given the state’s long border with Mexico. Pineda says Mayorkas previously ran the citizenship and immigration branch of the department he will now oversee. Mayorkas emigrated to the United States from Cuba as a child.

“I think he’ll be compassionate and bring some change there,” Pineda said.

A Republican-controlled Senate could present challenges to Biden’s nominees when it comes time for confirmations. Pineda says Biden’s picks so far have all been through Senate confirmation before, which should help them win approval. Control of the Senate will be decided in January once Georgia elects two new senators in a runoff election. 

Pineda said Biden will need to “extend and olive branch” to Senate Republicans.

“The president [-elect] also is going to run the risk of upsetting folks on the progressive left,” Pineda said. “So it’s this weird moment of threading the needle.”

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