Michigan's Slotkin, Tlaib among names floated for Biden cabinet

Melissa Nann Burke
The Detroit News

As President-elect Joe Biden begins to build out his cabinet, more Michigan names are being mentioned as potential picks, including freshman U.S. Reps. Elissa Slotkin and Rashida Tlaib. 

Slotkin, who was elected to a second term in the U.S. House Nov. 3, is reportedly on Biden's short list to lead the Central Intelligence Agency.

A former CIA analyst, the Holly Democrat did three tours in Iraq during her time at the agency. 

A former top defense official in the Obama administration, she is also a former staffer for the White House National Security Council under President George W. Bush and was a senior aide to the first Director of National Intelligence, John Negroponte. 

In the House, Slotkin serves on the Armed Services and Homeland Security committees with a focus on intelligence.

U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin

Others on Biden's short list, according to the New York Times, are Sue Gordon, a former principal deputy director of national intelligence, and Vincent R. Stewart, who formerly headed the Defense Intelligence Agency. Former Obama national security adviser Tom Donilon's name has also been in the mix.

“While Congresswoman Slotkin appreciates being named alongside such qualified candidates to lead the CIA, she is honored to serve the people of Michigan’s 8th District, and looks forward to doing so for a second term in Congress," Slotkin spokeswoman Hannah Lindow said.

A spokesman for the Biden transition team said it has not made any personnel decisions at this time. 

In some ways, Slotkin, 44, fits the mold that Biden appears to be after by nominating career, professional types with years of experience, and her relative youth may be viewed as a positive, said David Dulio, a political scientist at Oakland University.

But with House Democrats operating with a much narrower majority next term, leaders might be loath to risk Slotkin's seat flipping to the GOP in a special election. She defeated Republican Paul Junge last month by about 15,400 votes, or 3.6 percentage points. 

"It’s a Republican district, and whether could Democrats can find a candidate that could campaign in a way that she did is an open question," Dulio said. "She is a good fit for the district, with her pragmatism and centrism." 

U.S. Rep. Andy Levin, D-Bloomfield Township, is among the contenders for Biden's labor secretary.

Levin, a former union organizer, has the endorsements of four union organizations: the United Auto Workers, the Communications Workers of America, National Nurses United and the Utility Workers Union. 

He also has the backing from job-training groups such as the National Skills Coalition and the Corporation for a Skilled Workforce. 

U.S. Rep. Andy Levin

Levin has said it is an honor even to be mentioned as a candidate and that if Biden asked him to join his cabinet, he would consider it. 

Tlaib, a Detroit Democrat, is among the names pushed for Biden's cabinet by two progressive groups — the Justice Democrats and the Sunrise Movement, which advocates for action to stop the climate crisis. 

The groups have started a petition listing Tlaib as their top pick to lead the Department of Housing and Urban Development under Biden.

A Tlaib spokesman declined to comment Monday, but housing has been a top issue for Tlaib in Congress, where she sits on the House Financial Services Committee, which oversees the housing sector. Detroit native Ben Carson has been HUD secretary under President Donald Trump.

The Sunrise Movement's cabinet wish-list for Biden also includes Levin for the labor post; former Democratic gubernatorial candidate Dr. Abdul El Sayed for secretary of Health and Human Services; and Attorneys General Dana Nessel of Michigan and Keith Ellison of Minnesota (a Detroit native) for U.S. Attorney General. 

Biden told NBC News' Lester Holt last week that he already has "significant" representation among progressives in his administration and indicated wariness about pulling too many members out of the House.

"One thing is really critical: Taking someone out of the Senate, taking someone out of the House — particularly a person of consequence — is a really difficult decision that would have to be made," Biden said.

"I have a very ambitious, very progressive agenda. And it’s gonna take really strong leaders in the House and Senate to get it done.”

mburke@detroitnews.com