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Biden Names Rice Domestic Policy Adviser, Selects McDonough for VA

December 10, 2020 by Dan McCue
In this July 7, 2016, photo, national security adviser Susan Rice on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)

WASHINGTON – President-elect Joe Biden has asked Susan Rice to be the director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, signaling the importance of domestic policy in his early agenda.

The job is also something of a career change for Rice, a longtime Democratic foreign policy expert who served as President Barack Obama’s national security adviser and U.N. ambassador.

In her new role, Rice is likely to have considerable say on Biden’s approach to issues such as immigration, health care and racial inequality.

Earlier this year, Rice made the short list of potential running mates before Biden finally named Sen. Kamala Harris, of California.

Biden is also nominating Denis McDonough, who was Obama’s White House chief of staff, as secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs.

His selection is noteworthy because he never served in the armed forces, a fact noted by a leading veterans organization.

“President-Elect Biden’s selection of Denis McDonough as nominee for VA Secretary is clearly surprising but also simultaneously disappointing and encouraging,” said Jeremy Butler, chief executive officer of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.

“IAVA has long highlighted three criteria for any VA Secretary: a veteran, a medical professional, and experience managing large bureaucratic organizations. Denis McDonough arguably meets one of those criteria at best,” Butler said. 

“However, he does bring policy, legislative and Congressional expertise as well as a strong personal connection to the President-Elect,” he continued. “Running the VA is a massive job that few are fully prepared for on day one. Denis McDonough, if confirmed, has an incredibly steep learning curve in front of him. He also has the ear and respect of Joe Biden as well as the ability to bring about policy and legislative changes that are needed for the improvement of the VA and ensuring that it meets the needs of all veterans who use it.”  

In selecting Rice and McDonough, Biden is continuing to fill his administration with prominent members of the Obama administration.

The Biden transition team said the formal announcement of the nominations will be made Friday afternoon.

The president-elect is also going to announce the nominations of Ohio Rep. Marcia Fudge to run the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Katherine Tai as U.S. trade representative and Tom Vilsack as agriculture secretary.

In an accompanying statement, the transition team said, “This diverse and accomplished team will work around the clock to deliver immediate relief to the American people — including working families, veterans, farmers and producers, and everyone fighting for their place in the middle class.

“And as our nation emerges from the COVID-19 crisis and its aftermath, this team will bring the highest level of expertise and the bold vision necessary to help all Americans seize new opportunities and build back better,” the statement read.

In other news from the Biden camp, the transition team announced the president-elect will head to Atlanta, Ga., Saturday to campaign for the Democratic candidates in the state’s two critical U.S. Senate runoffs.

Jon Ossoff faces Republican Sen. David Perdue in the Jan. 5 runoffs, while GOP Sen. Kelly Loeffler faces the Rev. Raphael Warnock.

The winner of these contests will determine which party controls the Senate at the start of Biden’s presidency.

Both President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence have campaigned in the state for Loeffler and Perdue, and Pence is scheduled to return Thursday for a rally.

Republicans need one seat for a Senate majority. Democrats need both to make Vice President-elect Kamala Harris the tie-breaking vote.

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