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Biden: It Would Be 'Difficult' To Lose Sanders, Warren From Senate For Cabinet

Looking ahead to his remaining administration appointments, President-elect Joe Biden says he is open to including Republicans as well as progressive former rivals Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.

"We already have significant representation among progressives in our administration, but there's nothing really off the table," he said in an interview with NBC News' Lester Holt.

However, he said it would be "difficult" to take influential members of Congress out of their positions to build out his administration.

"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 will have to be made," Biden said.

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

Republicans currently have 50 seats in the Senate, and the balance of power in the chamber will be decided in runoff elections in Georgia. Potentially replacing Warren or Sanders could throw even more uncertainty into the mix.

If Sanders were pulled out of Congress, Gov. Phil Scott of Vermont, a Republican, initially said he would name another independent, but later said he would name "a more left-leaning type of independent that would obviously caucus with the Democrats."

In Massachusetts, Republican Gov. Charlie Baker has mostly avoided saying how he would fill a Warren vacancy. The Massachusetts legislature came up with a proposal to make Baker appoint a Democrat — but the governor said he would veto it.

In the interview, Biden struck a positive tone on the Trump administration's cooperation with his transition following an unprecedented delay.

Biden smiled as he confirmed that the transition "has already begun" despite President Trump's refusal to formally admit defeat.

"I must say the outreach has been sincere — it has not been begrudging so far and I don't expect it to be," Biden told Holt.

Biden noted there has been "a lot of immediate discussion" after the head of the General Services Administration finally unlocked the mechanisms for there to be a traditional transfer on Monday.

"Immediately, we've gotten outreach from the National Security shop, from, just across the board," he said, adding that transition teams are "already working out my ability to get Presidential Daily Briefs."

Biden also emphasized that his administration would not just be a continuation of the Obama years.

"This is not a third Obama term because ... we face a totally different world than we faced in the Obama/Biden administration," he said. "President Trump has changed the landscape. It's become America first, it's been America alone."

With regard to the COVID-19 crisis that has thrown the country back toward the brink of shutting down, Biden said his team is arranging to meet with White House officials who have been handling the pandemic. Among the issues they plan to address is "how to not only distribute, but get from a vaccine being distributed, to a person being able to get vaccinated."

"So I think we're going to not be so far behind the curve, as we thought we might be in the past," Biden said.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Vanessa Romo
Vanessa Romo is a reporter for NPR's News Desk. She covers breaking news on a wide range of topics, weighing in daily on everything from immigration and the treatment of migrant children, to a war-crimes trial where a witness claimed he was the actual killer, to an alleged sex cult. She has also covered the occasional cat-clinging-to-the-hood-of-a-car story.