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Biden taps Susan Rice for domestic policy adviser, Denis McDonough for VA secretary

Biden also announced Rep. Marcia Fudge for housing secretary, Tom Vilsack for agriculture secretary, and Katherine Tai for U.S. trade representative.

WASHINGTON — President-elect Joe Biden has tapped two veterans of the Obama White House to serve in his administration, naming Susan Rice as his domestic policy adviser and Denis McDonough to serve as secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Rice, 56, served as national security adviser and ambassador to the United Nations under former President Barack Obama. She was among the women in the final round of consideration for Biden’s running mate over the summer, before Kamala Harris was chosen.

The domestic policy adviser is not a Senate-confirmed position, sparing Rice from having to undergo a potentially arduous confirmation battle over controversial moments from her record, such as her comments on the Islamist militant attack in Benghazi, Libya, in 2012 and detailing concerns about then-incoming national security adviser Michael Flynn in 2017.

McDonough, 51, served as White House chief of staff for Obama’s second term. He will need to be confirmed by the Senate next year to hold the Cabinet position. Under Obama, McDonough also served as deputy national security adviser and chief of staff of the National Security Council.

In a press release announcing the picks Thursday, Biden's team touted Rice’s experience working at the uppermost levels of the executive branch and said that as the director of the Domestic Policy Council, she will “turbocharge” Biden’s agenda to “build back better.”

“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,” said the release, which also noted that as a former member of the Cabinet, she understands the challenges of running an agency and has extensive experience working with key members of the incoming administration, including the heads of the National Security Council and National Economic Council.

Her appointment indicates that Biden wants to super-charge the domestic policymaking process, which Biden doesn't see as discrete from the realms of foreign and economic policy, two sources familiar with the matter said.

As for McDonough, the release said that he is a “lifelong public servant who has been engaged at the highest level in shaping domestic and foreign policy.”

“McDonough helped lead the Obama-Biden administration’s work on behalf of military families and veterans, and earned the trust of the president-elect as a first-class manager with the knowledge and vision to deliver results," it said. "McDonough knows the ins and outs of government, and if confirmed, he will pull every lever to deliver results for veterans and their families.”

Former Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald called McDonough "a crisis-tested leader of character with great knowledge, skills, and experience in using the levers of government. He is also an extremely empathetic leader, especially for service members and their families."

The announcement Thursday also included the president-elect’s choices for other Cabinet positions, which were previously reported by NBC News. They include Rep. Marcia Fudge, D-Ohio, for secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development; Tom Vilsack, for secretary of Agriculture, a role he held under Obama; and Katherine Tai, a top trade lawyer on the House Ways and Means Committee, for U.S. trade representative.

Biden is expected to formally introduce his domestic Cabinet picks on Friday.