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The First Lady, the Second Gentleman and the other new White House faces to look out for

There are several ‘firsts’ among the new residents of the 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

JOE BIDEN IS into his third day as US president and the new administration is beginning to stretch its legs.

On day one Biden signed a raft of executive orders aimed at reversing some Trump-era policies and there’s even been some symbolic remodelling of the Oval Office.

But as we get used to to the changes in the White House, here’s a short guide to some people you might be getting to know. 

Jill Biden

The new First Lady Jill Biden is a community college teacher who has said she will continue to teach after moving into the White House, making her the first First Lady to keep a full-time job.

Biden kept her job during her eight years as Second Lady reportedly requested that the Secret Service accompanying dress as students to be less conspicuous.

Biden has preferred to refer to herself as ‘Dr B’ and the use of her academic title recently provoked headlines when a Wall Street Journal columnist criticised her for using it.

Biden had a significant impact on Wednesday’s inauguration after inviting 22-year-old poet Amanda Gorman to take part. Gorman became a star of the day with verse on how democracy “can never be permanently defeated.”

The new First Lady and President Biden married in 1977 she became the mother of his two sons, Beau and Hunter. Their daughter, Ashley, was born in 1981.

Jill Biden wrote the bestselling memoir, Where the Light Enters: Building a Family, Discovering Myself, and has also written a number of children’s books, including this year’s JOEY: The Story of Joe Biden.

Doug Emhoff

Basically filling the role Jill Biden had for eight years, Kamala Harris’ husband Doug Emhoff will become the first ever Second Gentleman.

Emhoff, a lawyer specialising in media, sports and entertainment, has left the law firm he worked at will now teach at Georgetown Law school in Washington.

Georgetown Law has described him as “one of the nation’s leading intellectual property and business litigators.”

In a video released this week, Emhoff went to the Library of Congress to “do his homework” about the role of White House spouses.

Harris and Emhoff, married in 2014 after meeting the previous year in a blind date.

He is the father of two children and Harris has written about being a stepmom, referring to herself as ‘Momala’.

Emhoff is the first Jewish spouse of a vice president and has said in his role he will “devote his time to the causes of justice, equality, and human rights”. 

Jen Psaki

biden-inauguration Source: PA Images

Jen Psaki is the new White House press secretary you’ll be seeing from the famous lectern from now own.

Psaki delivered her first briefing to reporters on the night of the inauguration and has promised that the briefings would be more frequent than the latter days of the Trump administration.

Playing nice with the reporters in the room on Wednesday, she said: “I have deep respect for the role of a free and independent press in our democracy and for the role all of you play.”

As with many of Biden’s team, Psaki is a veteran of the Obama administration having served as a press secretary in both of Obama’s campaigns. She has also worked as a commentator for CNN. 

Chuck Schumer

ny-u-s-senators-chuck-schumer-kirsten-gillibrand-presser Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer. Source: SIPA USA/PA Images

With the swearing in of two Democratic Senators from Georgia this week, Jon Ossof and Raphael Warnock, the party gained control of the senate.

The body now stands deadlocked at 50-50 but with Vice President Kamala Harris having the tie-breaking vote the Democrats have a loose grasp of the chamber.

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As a result, Schumer becomes the majority leader of the Senate, taking over from Mitch McConnell.

In his first speech leading the Senate, the 70-year-old Schumer described himself as “a kid from Brooklyn, the son of an exterminator and a housewife, a descendant of victims of the Holocaust.”

Schumer is the father of two children and is also a cousin of comedian Amy Schumer

Schumer will be a central playing in the next few weeks when the Senate conducts the impeachment trial of Donald Trump.

This won’t start until the “incitement of insurrection” charges are actually sent from the House of Representatives but much responsibility will then fall on Schumer to organise how the Senate operates during the trial. 

There have been suggestions that Senate working days could be split between the trial and other business to allow Biden’s legislative work to begin. 

Senate control should mean Biden will have an easier time getting his cabinet members and judge picks confirmed but passing legislation may prove more difficult.  And on that point. 

Cabinet members

us-senate-select-committee-on-intelligence-confirmation-hearing-for-avril-haines-to-be-the-director-of-national-intelligence-dni Avril Haines before the Senate Intelligence Committee. Source: DPA/PA Images

The nominations to Biden’s Cabinet have a 50/50 gender split and the first member has already been confirmed.

Former CIA official Avril Haines was confirmed as director of national intelligence by a clear vote of 84-10. The confirmation makes Haines the first woman ever to lead the 18 entities that make up the US intelligence community.

Another confirmation is ongoing with former presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg soon to become Transportation Secretary.

Some of the other Cabinet positions we’re likely to hear a lot about include Anthony Blinken as Secretary of State, Merrick Garland as Attorney General and Dr. Janet Yellen as Secretary of the Treasury. 

The vote on Yellen will be held later today and, with Republicans expressing concerns about Biden’s economic plans, the vote is likely to be seen as an early test of the potential for bipartisanship in the new era. 

About the author:

Rónán Duffy

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