Republicans who could serve in a Biden government

Bill Clinton had Republican William Cohen. George W. Bush had Democrat Norm Mineta. Barack Obama had Republicans Ray LaHood and Chuck Hagel. 

Now President-elect Joe Biden, who called for ending this “grim era of demonization in America,” is likewise signaling he might reach across the aisle to name Republicans to a Cabinet post and other key slots in his administration. 

It would be a return to bipartisanship, tradition and normalcy that has been missing in the Trump administration. President Trump, who vilified his Democratic opponents and still has not conceded his defeat to Biden, did not name any Democrats to his Cabinet during his four years in office. 

There are risks in the bipartisan approach. Biden’s victory has energized the left, which is gearing up to push an ambitious slate of legislative priorities tackling everything from climate change and health care to gun reform and an overhaul of the campaign finance system. And Trump’s refusal to concede Biden’s victory — along with the decision of GOP leaders to back him in that fight — has only soured Biden’s base on the GOP at large, heightening the pressure on the president-elect to stick with Democrats as he fills out his administration.

“Biden’s victory was largely the result of mobilizing traditional Democratic constituencies whose policy goals [don’t] align with the GOP,” said Julian Zelizer, a political historian at Princeton University. “If he goes this route it should not be a major post and it should be someone who has publicly distanced themselves from the Trump agenda.”

“The focus, however, should be on putting together a first-class Democratic administration that will pursue Democratic goals.”

Still, Biden frequently speaks fondly of his friendships with Republicans when he served in the Senate and is looking to hit the reset button in a Washington immobilized by partisan gridlock.

“It would certainly show that he’s making an effort to have an inclusive administration. Whether or not it brings about a feeling of national unity is another matter — it may not make a difference in terms of polarization and tribalism,” said one former Republican lawmaker. “But it’s a unifying gesture that people would appreciate.”

A Biden transition team source did not offer any GOP names but said: “Diversity of ideology and background is a core value of the transition, and is an important step in unifying the country under a Biden-Harris administration.” 

Here’s a look at Republicans who could serve in a Biden government:

The Arizonans

Biden became the first Democrat to win Arizona since Clinton in 1996. Some Democrats say it was endorsements from two respected Republicans from the Grand Canyon State — Cindy McCain and former Sen. Jeff Flake — that pushed Biden over the top.

McCain and Flake, who said Biden would restore civility and honor to the White House, have been floated for Biden administration posts.

Flake is a fiscal conservative but has been a proponent of immigration reform and has maintained friendships across the aisle, including with former Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-Ariz.) and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.). 

Biden gave McCain a speaking slot at the Democratic National Convention and named her to his transition advisory board. She’s never held public office but had a front row seat to international diplomacy traveling around the world with Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), the war hero and 2008 GOP presidential nominee repeatedly disparaged by Trump. She could serve as a top ambassador for Biden or in another diplomatic post.  

Asked on ABC’s “The View” about serving in a Biden Cabinet, McCain replied: “This is an administration that’s going to be all-inclusive and there is a role for Republicans in the administration.”

The governors

If distance from Trump is prerequisite, several GOP state executives would fit the bill. 

John Kasich, former governor of Ohio, ran against Trump in the 2016 Republican primary, emerging from that battle as one of the president’s sharpest GOP critics of the last four years. Kasich supported Biden on the trail, speaking at the Democratic National Convention, and has long focused on economic issues, both as a former chairman of the House Budget Committee and in the private sector as an investment banker with Lehman Brothers. 

One glitch: Kasich says he doesn’t want any administration jobs. “I’m not interested in returning to Washington,” he told CNN last month.

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan is another prominent Republican who’s pulled no punches in going after Trump, even weighing a primary challenge against the president this cycle. Though he represents a deep-blue state, Hogan ranks among the most popular governors in the country and has built a national following for his aggressive response to the coronavirus pandemic. With his experience in crisis management, he potentially could serve at the Homeland Security Department or in a role combating the pandemic, the most urgent issue facing Biden.  

A past National Governors Association chairman, Hogan’s prospects for an administration position likely faded, however, when he voted for the late Ronald Reagan in this year’s presidential cycle — a move that might burnish his conservative bona fides, but infuriated Democrats in the Free State. 

Of course, Republicans such as Hogan might also not want to serve in a Biden administration for fear it would hurt their national political ambitions moving forward.

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker (R) has also refused to back Trump, voting against the president in 2016 and again this year. The Bay State has been hit particularly hard by the pandemic, and Baker has hammered Trump’s erratic response as “incredibly irresponsible.” More recently, he’s bashed the president’s claims of rampant voter fraud, saying they “aren’t supported by any of the facts and they are damaging to democracy.”

Baker’s previous experience is deeply rooted in health care policy and cuts across the public and private sectors. The former CEO of a medical nonprofit, Baker has also served as Massachusetts’ health secretary as well as head of the state’s office of administration and finance. Although a Republican, Baker has carved a niche as a progressive on social issues, supporting abortion rights, same-sex marriage and public housing. 

Business executives

Biden certainly will look outside the Beltway to fill out his administration, and that could include some Republicans from Silicon Valley and the business world.

Former eBay and Quibi CEO Meg Whitman and former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina both endorsed Biden. Whitman, who spent $144 million of her own money on her unsuccessful bid for California governor, declared in a video at the Democratic National Convention: “I’m with Joe.”

And in the closing weeks of the campaign, Fiorina, who unsuccessfully ran for the GOP presidential nomination against Trump in 2016, took to Trump’s once-favorite TV network, Fox News, to make the case for the Democratic hopeful.

“Presidents should work for us,” Fiorina said. “And so while I don’t agree with everything Joe Biden believes, I don’t agree with all the policies of his party, I have been a Republican for all my life, I think Joe Biden is a stronger leader because he has demonstrated humility, empathy, the willingness to collaborate with others and the character that I think matters in a leader.”

Either Whitman or Fiorina could serve in economic roles for Biden, including on the National Economic Council or as Commerce secretary, though that expansive post — overseeing everything from trade and patents to the census and National Weather Service — typically remains with the party of the president.    

House lawmakers

In December 2008, Obama tapped a fellow Illinois lawmaker, the affable and moderate GOP Rep. Ray LaHood, to be his Transportation secretary.

While also not a man of the House, Biden could follow in Obama’s footsteps by naming a handful of former and current GOP lawmakers to his administration.

Some names being floated include former Rep. Charlie Dent, a former appropriator and Ethics Committee chairman who hails from Biden’s home state of Pennsylvania and who endorsed Biden. Dent is now a registered lobbyist, however, and the Biden team is under pressure from the left to issue a blanket ban on all corporate lobbyists serving in the administration. 

Dent had served as a leader of the bloc of GOP moderates known as the Tuesday Group. Other possibilities include two of the current leaders of the Tuesday Group: Reps. John Katko (R-N.Y.) and Fred Upton (R-Mich.), the former chairman of the powerful Energy and Commerce Committee.

“Knowing Joe Biden I would be surprised if he doesn’t include Republicans in his Cabinet,” Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) told reporters. “I think it’s very possible that he will because he’s going to want the very best.”

Jordain Carney contributed. 

Tags 2020 election Arizona Barack Obama Ben Cardin Bill Clinton Charlie Dent Chuck Hagel Donald Trump Fred Upton Jeff Flake Joe Biden John Katko John McCain
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