President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. faces outbursts of factionalism and intense impatience within his own party as the groups that make up the Democratic Coalition see President Trump as an opponent and instead fight over the definition of staff and turn politics to a new administration.
With only five weeks to go until he takes office, Mr Biden and his allies and advisers recognize that converting the string of constituencies he has rallied against Mr Trump into a stronger government force can be a significant challenge. Competition for executive office has already strained valuable political alliances and angered some of Mr. Biden’s key supporters of the Democratic Primary Competition as well as numerous minority and women lawmakers on Capitol Hill.
So far, Mr Biden has tried not to suppress democratic discord or to force a tightly focused message on the party, but rather to set up a team that will focus on dealing with the coronavirus crisis while appeasing various interest groups. This strategy is largely in line with the successful approach of the Biden 2020 election campaign: treating the pandemic as an overwhelming problem, taking humble steps to appease various democratic factions, and surrounding Mr Biden with familiar faces who embody the expertise.
It remains to be seen whether Mr Biden will seek a more assertive approach after taking office. Stakeholders from across the democratic coalition have mobilized to call for swift action from the executive branch on issues ranging from student indebtedness and police overhaul to union rights and climate change.
New York representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a prominent Progressive, said she hoped Mr Biden would soon set out the overarching issues of his administration beyond the weekly announcements made by the staff.
“You have an individual appointment here, an individual appointment there,” said Ms. Ocasio-Cortez. “What is the overall message of the overall picture in this entire cabinet put together?”
Marc Morial, the head of the National Urban League, who was part of a group of civil rights leaders who met with Mr Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris last week, said the new administration was facing a high bar of political early appointments Initiatives.
“There has to be a clear understanding that this is not 2008, this is not 1992, this is not 1976,” Morial said, referring to other newly elected democratic governments. “Why isn’t it? Because we stand behind the most caustic, racist president and government we have seen in this day and age. “
Mr Biden is significantly more sensitive to the delicate task of maintaining a coalition than his predecessor, Mr Trump, who provided his administration with personal friends, business people, television personalities and political cronies – with little concern about diversity, electoral strategy or finances and ethical conflicts.
Andrew Bates, a spokesperson for the Biden Transition Efforts, said the president-elect presented a list of candidates “who have what it takes to overcome this moment of unprecedented crisis, deliver for American families and bring our nation together,” noted that many of them had received widespread support.
But the sensitivities are great. Some Democratic Congress leaders, including House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, are urging Mr Biden not to remove any more members from their House majority, which is already so fragile that Speaker Nancy Pelosi is likely to face an uncomfortably close vote next month to secure their job for another two years.
“Two are too many, but three would be even more,” said Hoyer, alluding to the pair of House Democrats that Mr Biden has already tapped for administrative tasks.
However, this could exacerbate tensions with a handful of female lawmakers, including New Mexico representative Deb Haaland hoping to be named Secretary of the Interior and whose congressional allies have expressed frustration with senior Biden aides over her possibly being verbally abused.
It is not just House margin that has weighed on Mr Biden and his party in preparing for government.
Some lawmakers also complain that they have not been adequately consulted by Mr Biden and his team on appointments, particularly the selection of Lloyd J. Austin III, a retired general, as Secretary of Defense as his recent military service will require Congress to give him a special waiver.
Identity-based groups continue to stand up for Mr. Biden to ensure racial and gender diversity at all levels of his administration. On Thursday, Hispanic lawmaker urged Ms. Harris directly to ensure that there were at least two Latinas in prominent administrative roles – a commitment she did not want to make, according to those briefed at the meeting.
“She made no commitments,” said Texas representative Vicente Gonzalez, “but she has committed to working with us on a regular basis.”
That commitment wasn’t enough, however: a group of Latina Democrats in Congress on Monday issued a public demand that Mr. Biden nominates at least two Latinas to his cabinet.
Civil rights groups meanwhile are urging Mr Biden to appoint a black attorney general and avoid candidates with poor police and criminal justice records. Unions have helped block at least one cabinet appointment, an offer from Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo to become Secretary of Health based on her records of pension changes.
There is growing fear among some of Mr Biden’s allies that people who campaigned hard for him will be waiting in line for jobs – or obviously offered inferior positions – while holdovers from the Obama era were quickly being promoted to executive positions .
The close-knit black mayor community was angered by the absence of Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, an early Biden supporter from the upper ranks of the government. Over the weekend, Ms. Bottoms and interim officials denied a report that she was offered a foreign ambassador in lieu of a more prominent role, and a mayor’s spokesman said she had declined an executive officer appointment without listing the post.
Rashad Taylor, an adviser to Ms. Bottoms, said Monday that a message had never been discussed.
However, Ms. Bottoms’ allies, who fought hard for Mr. Biden in the toughest days of Democratic Elementary School, remain frustrated that she has not got any of the coveted jobs she was interested in, such as an envoy to the United Nations .
Another of Biden’s top supporters, former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg, was also passed over for the United States role, though he remains a candidate for trade or transportation secretary.
Some in the party believe Mr Biden still owes considerable respect in the composition of his administration, especially given the scale of the coronavirus emergency he and his team will face.
“I always tell everyone: Joe Biden is now at the top and that’s what he wants,” said Californian representative Doris Matsui, adding with a chuckle: “I don’t think we’re going to fight as much as we have. ” different opinions.”
So far, the President-elect and his advisors have attempted to resolve conflicts from a distance by holding listening sessions with various Democratic constituencies and then holding deliberations within Mr Biden’s narrow inner circle, ultimately revealing personnel decisions in groups aimed at that to please several groups at the same time. Mr Biden was known as a practical Senate negotiator and Vice President, but since his campaign began in 2020 he has been a little more reluctant and has frequently asked congressional leaders like Ms. Pelosi political questions.
His selection of Neera Tanden for Office of Administration and Budget and Xavier Becerra as Head of the Department of Health and Human Services has angered Republicans who see them as overly partisan, and Mr Becerra has been criticized for not having excellent testimonials for the public Owns health.
Some prominent Democrats are increasingly skeptical that Ms. Tanden can be confirmed, believing that she may end up in a White House post that does not require Senate confirmation. However, transition officials have publicly and privately insisted that they will fight for them.
Mr. Biden irritated some Senate Democrats with his election of General Austin as Secretary of Defense. Many lawmakers in both parties – including Senator Jack Reed of Rhode Island, the senior Democrat on the Armed Forces Committee – understand that they are uncomfortable waiving the law that bans military veterans from serving as Secretary of Defense in retirement from active Service for less than seven years.
A number of lawmakers said they did not want to do this again after giving James Mattis, a retired Navy general, a renunciation of leadership of the Pentagon under Mr. Trump.
“I was surprised, especially given what some of my colleagues have said who may have supported the waiver in the past but said it was the last time we would do this,” said Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal, a member of the Armed Forces Committee . “And I wasn’t consulted, no reason I should be, but I was surprised.”
Mr Biden’s decisions are based on his determination to keep his promise to appoint a cabinet that reflects the diversity of the country. Mr. Austin would be the first black Secretary of Defense, and without him much of the national security apparatus that Mr. Biden has set up would be white. But Mr Biden’s team did little to prepare the black lawmakers and leaders to stand up for Mr Austin before announcing his selection, and they made an effort to catch up as soon as the deadline hit the news media.
In perhaps the most arduous negotiation of the Cabinet process, Mr. Becerra, who is Hispanic, was appointed Secretary of Health and Human Services after it became clear that Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham, much to the horror of the Hispanic Caucus of the New Mexico Congress, would not receive the appointment .
A second candidate for the health position, Ms. Raimondo, encountered resistance from union leaders who clashed with her in her home state. At least two major unions, the public giant Afscme and the American Federation of Teachers, spoke out strongly against Ms. Raimondo with the Biden transition team.
Mr Biden reached out to Mr Becerra almost immediately after members of the Hispanic caucus rebuked his experience in the public domain during a meeting earlier this month about their treatment of Ms. Lujan Grisham, according to reports from Democrats familiar with the timing Health is known to be more limited than that of the two governors.
Mr Biden’s employees have worked privately to heal wounds by telling them that there will be enough sales in the top jobs soon.
“I keep saying: the second wave will be sooner than you think,” said a senior Biden official who spoke about private conversations with cabinet officials on condition of anonymity. “Now deal with your city, your state.”
In the meantime, Democrats said, Mr Biden could continue to get help from a trusted source to help achieve party unity.
Representative Ro Khanna, a progressive Californian, said there was still enough “fear of Trump” in the Democratic coalition to offer Mr. Biden an ongoing “reprieve”.
“Trump, who continues to float to be a future candidate, could be a blessing for Joe Biden,” said Khanna. “It could be what Joe Biden needs to hold the democratic coalition together.”