Women rock, and will rule, in White House; Biden to name Indian-American Neera Tanden as budget boss
WASHINGTON: After powering the Biden-Harris ticket to the White House, American women in all their diversity are heading towards a fair share of executive office 100 years after they won the right to vote in the United States.
In a striking recognition of their capability, merit, and majority support for the Democratic Party, President-elect Joe Biden on Sunday rolled out an all-female team to head the White House communications office, and is expected to nominate Indian-American Neera Tanden as the budget director in a finance team that will also be dominated by women.
He is also expected to name Cecilia Rouse, a Princeton University economist, as chair of the Council of Economic Advisers, with economists Jared Bernstein and Heather Boushey serving as the other members.
Along with former Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen, who was picked as Treasury Secretary last week, they will constitute a troika of women who will call the shots on monetary and budgetary matters, areas long dominated by men.
Separately, Biden named a seven-women, all-female White House press team that will be led by Kate Bedingfield, his campaign communications director who will serve as the White House communications director. Jen Psaki, a longtime Democratic spokeswoman, will be his press secretary. Senior advisor to the Biden-Harris campaign Symone Sanders will be Vice President-elect Kamala Harris‘ chief spokeswoman and Harris’s communications director will be Ashley Etienne, a senior adviser to Biden’s campaign who served as a communications director to Nancy Pelosi.
Karine Jean-Pierre, a longtime Kamala Harris aide who was her Chief of Staff on the Biden-Harris Campaign, will be the White House Principal Deputy Press Secretary. Elizabeth Alexander, a former Press Secretary to Biden, will Communications Director for First Lady Jill Biden, and Pili Tomar, will the Deputy White House Communications Director.
What is striking about the teams is not just the gender aspect but also the diversity in terms of race, ethnicity, and background. While Tanden will be only the third woman to be nominated to head the Office of Management and Budget (she would need to be confirmed by the Senate), she is the first Indian-American, or any minority woman to be named for the position. Cecilia Rouse, who is African American, would be the first woman of color to chair the Council of Economic Advisers. Yellin will be the first female Treasury Secretary in the country’s history going back to Alexander Hamilton in 1789.
In the White House comm team, Karine Jean-Pierre and Pili Tobar, both lesbian, are of Haitian and Guatemalan origin respectively.
But the most contentious upcoming nomination, first reported in the Wall Street Journal, will be Neera Tanden, who is something of a lightning rod even within the Democratic Party. Currently leading the liberal think tank Center for American Progress in Washington DC, she is seen as not progressive enough by Bernie Sanders radicals with whom she has clashed over the years. Her nomination will have to get through the Senate Budget Committee, which Sanders will chair if Democrats gain control of the Senate.
Daughter of immigrant parents from India who divorced when she was only five, Tanden was brought up by her mother — much like Kamala Harris — in difficult circumstances, including a stint on welfare and food stamps. She went to Yale Law School and volunteered on the Dukakis campaign in 1988, making her a contemporary of Kamala and her sister Maya. She also worked as Hillary Clinton’s legislative director when she (Clinton) was a Senator.
Women voted 57-42 for the Biden-Harris ticket.