Joe Biden, the US president-elect, and his transition team are expected to move quickly to fill positions in his cabinet, although he may be forced to make more moderate selections if Republicans retain control of the Senate.
The Democratic party’s lacklustre performance in Senate races during the 2020 election means that Senate Republicans, led by Mitch McConnell, could pose a challenge to Mr Biden’s chances of winning approval for his nominees to top jobs in the administration, including Treasury secretary and secretary of state.
Policy analysts in Washington said this political reality will make Mr Biden lean towards more centrist, less progressive candidates for those positions. While that could please many in business and markets, it risks alienating the more left-leaning wing of the Democratic party.
“Biden will be somewhat constrained because Republican control of the Senate will necessitate nomination of more centrist candidates. In filling his cabinet Biden will give priority to technocratic experience, loyalty, and diversity,” according to a note from Signum Global Advisors, which is chaired by Charles Myers, a top fundraiser for Mr Biden.
During his victory speech in Wilmington, Delaware, on Saturday night, Mr Biden stressed the need for unity and collaboration to try to “heal” America after the deep divisions of Mr Trump’s tenure in the White House.
But the president-elect and his advisers have also stressed that they intend to plough ahead with their agenda — which is among the most progressive for a Democrat in decades, crafted with plenty of input from the party’s leftwing.
“[Mr Biden] will be making announcements to the American people about how he’s going to make good on these campaign promises,” Kate Bedingfield, his deputy campaign manager, said in an interview with NBC on Sunday.
“Look, we saw the Biden-Harris ticket get the most votes of any presidential ticket in the history of presidential politics. People are hungry for change,” she added.
The transition team is being led by five co-chairs, including Anita Dunn, Mr Biden’s senior adviser; Michelle Lujan Grisham, the governor of New Mexico; Ted Kaufman, the former US senator from Delaware; Cedric Richmond, the Louisiana congressman; and Jeff Zients, the former acting White House budget director under Barack Obama.
Even before the election, it looked increasingly unlikely that Mr Biden would pick Elizabeth Warren — the US senator from Massachusetts and leading advocate for stronger consumer financial protections — for Treasury secretary, which would have pleased the leftwing of the Democratic party.
Instead, the most likely candidates for that job are Lael Brainard, a Fed governor, Sarah Bloom Raskin, the former deputy Treasury secretary, and Roger Ferguson, the chief executive of TIAA-CREF, the pension fund.
One big question is whether Mr Biden will want to offer any Republicans a spot in the cabinet, in a nod to bipartisanship that might leave progressive Democrats unimpressed.
Progressive lawmakers and activists in Washington argued there was no reason for Mr Biden to limit either his agenda or his cabinet selections because of the Senate results.
They noted that there was still a chance that Democrats could win back control of the upper chamber if they prevailed in two run-off races in Georgia in early January — and even if they did not, there was usually a high bar for the Senate to block a new president’s cabinet appointments.
They also warned that excessively moderate choices would discourage the same progressive activists who helped bolster Democratic turnout during the election.
“These transition appointments, they send a signal. They tell a story of who the administration credits with this victory,” Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the progressive member of the House of Representatives from New York, told the New York Times in an interview. “It’s really hard for us to turn out non-voters when they feel like nothing changes for them.”