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Biden to tap Katherine Tai for U.S. trade representative and Denis McDonough to head veterans affairs

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President-Elect Joe Biden plans to nominate Katherine Tai to serve as U.S. Trade Representative, a Cabinet-level position, two people familiar with the decision tell CBS News. And former White House chief of staff Denis McDonough is Mr. Biden’s choice to lead the Department of Veterans affairs, a person familiar with the decision tells CBS News

Tai is a senior staffer on the House Ways and Means Committee serving as the panel’s trade counsel. She also would be the first Asian American woman to hold the job and the second poised to serve in the Biden Cabinet.

She served in the office of the USTR during the Obama administration with a focus on China trade enforcement. That experience is likely to come in handy as the Biden administration rejiggers the U.S. approach to China in the coming years.

As veterans affairs secretary, McDonough, 51, would be responsible for leading the second-largest Cabinet department and one of the world’s largest hospital systems, with more than 335,000 employees nationwide.

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Democrats traditionally put a premium on finding something with significant managerial experience when selecting a veterans affairs secretary and the Biden team credits McDonough’s four years as President Obama’s chief of staff, a position that gave him broad oversight of the federal government, as a sign of his management experience. Unlike many who serve in this role, McDonough is not a military veteran. 

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Biden transition aides declined to comment on either nomination ahead of a formal announcement. 

David Martin contributed to this report.

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