Jockeying for jobs: Tensions simmer inside Biden transition as new administration takes shape

President-elect Joe Biden is rapidly assembling a team of Washington hands with deep experience, projecting an image of cohesion in contrast to the savage infighting often at play around President Donald Trump.

But below the surface of his tightly scripted events, tensions simmer as factions within Biden’s decades-old orbit jockey for jobs and outside figures grow increasingly vocal in questioning some of the early choices for top positions within the administration.

Though the conflicts don’t break neatly along ideological lines, they underscore a broader challenge certain to become a defining theme of the next four years: whether the former vice president, a centrist, can bridge the divide with liberals and a younger generation of aides who got their start under President Barack Obama.

Self-described “progressives,” including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., have questioned centrist Democrats and longtime Biden allies whose names have been floated for jobs. Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C., the highest-ranking Black lawmaker, who played a pivotal role in helping the president-elect cement his path to victory, said he was disappointed more Black candidates hadn’t been selected for the Cabinet. 

Derrick Johnson, head of the NAACP, noted that civil rights leaders have yet to meet with Biden to discuss appointments or the Georgia Senate runoff elections Jan. 5 that will determine control of the chamber and Biden’s agenda.

“Civil rights leaders in this country should be on par, if not more, than other constituency groups he has met with,” Johnson said, expecting that the historic advocacy group and others would receive that invitation soon.