President Biden’s commitment to diversity in the first 100 days

Unless facing a crisis, the greatest responsibility of a president early in an administration is to endow the highest levels of government with hand-picked appointments. This allows the chief executive to steer the gigantic ship of state in the direction that advances his political priorities. Throughout the 2020 presidential campaign, candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden repeatedly pledged to name a team that looked like America. Brookings has followed that commitment by noting the pace, gender and race / ethnicity of its confirmed Senate candidates, and we have now passed 100e day of his mandate, privileged moment to take stock and evaluate the appointments of the personnel.

While the 100-day mark is an artificial milestone at best and doesn’t predict future progress, now is a good time to pick up the pace and see where the new leaders have taken the helm across the fifteen departments. Expectations during this period should be tempered, however, by the fact that the President’s first 100 days are by no means equal to the Senate’s first 100 days. For starters, the Senate was suspended for three weeks in the first 100 days. Excluding weekends and Fridays (since only one confirmation occurred on a Friday), there were roughly 47 days the Senate could have confirmed President Biden’s candidates. In short, the executive calendar of the Senate has a profound impact on government staffing.

A quick word on the methodology: I mainly relied on Congress.gov to obtain confirming information for the four presidents and used a variety of online resources and interviews to determine gender, race, and location. ethnicity. I adopted the race / ethnicity categorization of the US census. The data only includes confirmations of positions in all 15 departments (excluding U.S. Department of Justice attorneys) during the first 100 days of the Bush, Obama, Trump and Biden administrations.

Gender and Race / Ethnicity: How Diverse Are These Confirmed Candidates?

Despite the relatively short window in which the Biden candidates were considered, the administration remains true to its commitment to diversity. From the end of the 100e April 30, 2021, there were 30 confirmed nominees. Compared to President Biden’s three predecessors, the proportion of women and non-whites was higher.

Beyond the numbers, it is important to note that some of the appointments are historic firsts: the first black to be Secretary of Defense, Lloyd Austin; the first Native American, Deb Haaland, to serve as a Cabinet member and Home Secretary; the first woman, Janet Yellen, to serve as Secretary of the Treasury; and the first Latino and immigrant to head the Department of Homeland Security, Alejandro Mayorkas. These appointments are innovative and pave the way for future women and minorities to assume leadership in positions that were previously inaccessible. In short, the figures alone do not shed light on the lasting impact of these appointments.

Rhythm: How fast does the president recruit the government?

The pace of President Biden’s confirmations is nothing out of the ordinary. At 100 days, the Biden administration has fewer confirmed candidates than President Obama, but close to President George W. Bush and has exceeded President Trump’s progress.

While admittedly a small sample of appointees, early numbers reveal President Biden’s continued commitment to diversity and a pace comparable to that of two of his three predecessors. Much to the chagrin of the new presidents, they are indeed beholden to the Senate calendar for the pace of confirmations and little can be done. As of April 29, 2021, President Biden had appointed 198 people, demonstrating that while they have selected and approved many appointees, their expectations of government staffing must be tempered by the realities of the Senate calendar. The only bright spot on the horizon is that historically the next 100-day period has been a much more productive confirmation period.


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