WASHINGTON — President-elect Joe Biden chose Susan Rice to be director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, a surprise choice that will give the foreign policy veteran a hefty domestic portfolio.
Rice is a seasoned diplomat with extensive national security experience, but she has not been heavily involved in domestic policymaking.
Rice was seen as a top contender to be Biden’s secretary of state, though she would have faced a difficult confirmation battle. As head of Biden’s Domestic Policy Council, Rice will have broad sway over everything from health policy to immigration to rural affairs.
Biden’s campaign said the president-elect chose Rice for the role because she “knows government inside and out” and will “turbocharge the effort to build back better.”
Rice’s appointment is also a signal Biden wants his domestic and foreign policy advisers to work hand-in-hand. Biden has touted the idea of creating a “foreign policy for the middle class” that takes into account the domestic impact of international trade, globalization and other international issues. Biden’s announcement specifically noted Rice’s experience working with the National Security Council.
“Rice is among our nation’s most senior and experienced government leaders with the skills to harness the power of the federal government to serve the American people,” Biden’s announcement said. “As a former member of the Cabinet, she also understands the challenges and opportunities of running an agency and has extensive experience working with other key members of the Biden-Harris White House team.”
Rice’s allies say she is a whip-smart, tough-as-nails negotiator. As a Black woman – her father is a descendent of slaves and her mother is a child of Jamaican immigrants – Rice’s nomination also reflects Biden’s push to assemble a diverse Cabinet and staff.
The 56-year-old Rice served as President Barack Obama’s ambassador to the United Nations and then as his national security adviser. In 2012, Rice was in the running to replace Hillary Clinton as secretary of state, but she bowed out amid fierce GOP opposition. Republicans hammered Rice for her initial description of the attack on a U.S. consulate in Benghazi, which left U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans dead.
After that attack, Rice appeared on five Sunday talk shows, during which she said the deadly Sept. 11 incident seemed to have started as a spontaneous protest sparked by an anti-Islam video made in the U.S. The Obama administration later said the attack was a well-organized terror plot, possibly timed for the anniversary of 9/11.
Obama said Rice’s remarks were based on assessments she was given by U.S. intelligence officials, and he called the GOP attacks misleading.
Rice was among those Biden considered for vice president and she represents another appointee from his tight circle of trusted advisers. Rice briefed both Obama and Biden regularly on national security issues when she served in the White House. In her book, “Tough Love,” Rice writes that Biden became her “favorite unannounced visitor” at the White House, where he would often stop by her office to chat.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Joe Biden picks Susan Rice as head of Domestic Policy Council