Opinion | Biden has great options for reshuffling his Cabinet and placing judges


For virtually every presidential administration, the two-year mark is a convenient point for personnel changes. In many cases, after many months in grueling 16-hour-day, seven-day-a-week jobs, officials honestly do want to spend more time with families. In other instances, presidents take advantage of an opportune moment to cycle out underperformers, move overperformers to more prominent jobs and look for spots for valiant losers in the midterms.

This second category of reshuffling is now key for President Biden. Even though he appears determined to run for a second term, he and the Democratic Party still have an interest in preparing the next generation of Democratic stars for higher office.

Let’s start with judgeships. Since taking office, Biden has filled 85 federal openings with qualified, highly diverse nominees. But he still has 87 current vacancies, including 56 with pending nominees, according to the American Constitution Society tracker.

Given the possibility Democrats lose the Senate or White House in 2024, Biden would be wise to fill every last one of those slots and any others that come open, including by moving up lower court and state court judges to appellate openings.

These are the jurists who might have Supreme Court credentials in the future. They would include Cheri Beasley, former North Carolina chief justice who failed in her U.S. Senate bid; Leondra Kruger and Goodwin Liu, associate justices on the California Supreme Court; and superstar academics including Melissa Murray of New York University and Leah Litman of the University of Michigan.

Moving on to White House officials: Brian Deese, the National Economic Council director, will be departing. Gene Sperling, who has been overseeing American Rescue Plan expenditures, would be a natural successor, since Sperling held the NEC job in two prior administrations. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, widely regarded on both sides of the aisle, is another possibility. (Alternatively, if Janet L. Yellen retires, Raimondo could credibly replace her at Treasury.)

No Cabinet-level personnel have yet announced that they are leaving. Many will make it through all four years — but not everyone. So think of the following Cabinet speculation as the equivalent of putting together a fantasy football team:

If Susan Rice exits for a prime ambassadorship (or other foreign policy post where her talents would be better used), public engagement adviser Keisha Lance Bottoms would be a natural pick to take over as head of the Domestic Policy Council.

If we see the departure of Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, a less visible player in national security than many predecessors, potential successors include defeated Rep. Elaine Luria (D-Va.), who is a retired Navy commander; Christine E. Wormuth, the first female Army secretary; and Michèle Flournoy, previously on the short list for Pentagon chief. Biden could distinguish his administration with the first female defense secretary.

For now, national security adviser Jake Sullivan, who has had his problems (e.g., coordinating the withdrawal from Afghanistan, annoying the French in the…

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