Susan Rice, who served as national security adviser to former President Barack Obama as well as United State Ambassador to the United Nations, has been selected by President-elect Joe Biden to be the Directors of the White House Domestic Policy Council. Biden’s decision was surprising as much of Rice’s background is rooted in national security. However, concerns had been raised that Rice would have difficulty getting confirmed by the US Senate, which is controlled by Republicans; she does not require Senate confirmation to take the role of head of the Domestic Policy Council.
As Director, Rice will be instrumental in the implementation of Biden’s “Build Back Better” agenda, which comprises policy proposals investing trillions of dollars in US infrastructure, manufacturing, clean energy, caregiving, education, and racial equity. According to a person familiar with the issue, Biden selected Rice because of her lengthy experience in crisis management and interagency processes. Also, it is believed that Biden does not view foreign, economic, and diplomatic matters as separate and discrete issues, and Rice’s extensive knowledge of how the federal government works is an asset for enacting Biden’s domestic policy agenda.
Susan Elizabeth Rice was born in 1964 in Washington DC. Her maternal grandparents emigrated to Portland, Maine, from Jamaica in 1912. Her grandparents managed to send all five of their children to college. Rice’s mother Lois Dickson Rice attended Harvard-Radcliffe and was student government president. Lois Rice worked as an education policy scholar who was instrumental in designing the Pell Grant system. She joined the Brookings Institution in 1992 and spent her career working to make higher education more accessible to more people. Susan Rice’s father was Emmett J. Rice, an economics professor at Cornell University and the second black governor of the Federal Reserve System. Her parents divorced when Rice was ten years old, and her mother married Alfred Bradley Fitt, an attorney and general-consul of the US Congressional Budget Office in 1978.
Rice attended National Cathedral School in Washington DC where she was a three-letter varsity athlete, student government president, and valedictorian. She then attended Stanford University receiving a Truman Scholarship and graduating with honors with a BA in history in 1986. In her junior year, she was elected Phi Beta Kappa. She then attended New College at Oxford University in the United Kingdom on a Rhodes Scholarship and earned a MA in International Relations in 1988 and a PhD in the same field in 1990.
Rice served as National Security Advisor in the administration of President Bill Clinton from 1993 to 1997 and as the Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs at the US State Department from 1997 to 2001. Rice is a former Brookings Institution Fellow and was foreign policy advisor to Michael Dukakis, John Kerry, and Barack Obama. Rice was confirmed by the US Senate in 2008 as Ambassador to the United Nations where she championed human rights and anti-poverty initiatives, prioritized the issues of climate change, LGBT rights and women’s rights on the global scale, and committed the US to international agreements like the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and the UN Millennium Development Goals.
Rice’s decision to accept the directorship indicates that she continues to have political ambitions; she has suggested she could run for the Senate in Maine against Susan Collins. She was also mentioned as a possible vice-presidential candidate before Biden chose Kamala Harris as his running mate in the 2020 election.
While her new job does not require confirmation by the Senate, Biden’s administration will still need the support of Republicans to implement its domestic policies, and Rice has long been a target of the Republican party due to comments she made after the attack in Benghazi of a US diplomatic facility and unmasking requires by the Party’s presidential candidate in 2016. She has never been charged with any improprieties but has generally faced strong criticism from Republicans, and this could complicate any efforts to get Biden’s policies passed by Congress.