Should Mr. Biden tap Ms. Yates for attorney general, it may enhance Mr. Johnson’s prospects for the Pentagon because otherwise the traditional top four cabinet department posts — Justice, State, Defense and Treasury — will have gone to white nominees.
Republicans in the Senate will try to reject some of Mr. Biden’s nominees. But his team is just as worried about opposition from Democrats.Michael J. Morell, a former acting C.I.A. director and one of the two leading candidates to be nominated to that position, has drawn the ire of liberals for his outspoken defense of the C.I.A.’s interrogation program.
“Mike Morell wrote that torture was effective and moral,” Senator Ron Wyden, Democrat of Oregon, wrote on Twitter on Wednesday. “He’s wrong on both counts.”
Thomas E. Donilon, a former national security adviser in the Obama administration, is also a leading possibility to take over the C.I.A. His brother, Mike Donilon, is one of Mr. Biden’s closest political advisers. Others under consideration are Sue Gordon, a former principal deputy director of national intelligence who was pushed out by Mr. Trump; Vincent R. Stewart, a retired lieutenant general who led the Defense Intelligence Agency; and Representative Elissa Slotkin, Democrat of Michigan, a former C.I.A. analyst and White House national security aide.
Aides to the president-elect said on Wednesday that he intended to announce more members of his economic team this coming week after choosing Janet L. Yellen, a former Federal Reserve chair, to be his Treasury secretary.
Mr. Biden could pick Roger W. Ferguson Jr., an economist who was vice chair of the Federal Reserve and was under serious consideration for the Treasury job, to lead the National Economic Council or a new board overseeing the recovery from the recession.
Picking Mr. Ferguson, who is Black, to lead the council would help Mr. Biden keep a promise to make his administration look like the rest of America. Other names under consideration for the position are white men, including Bruce Reed, a former chief of staff to Mr. Biden, and Austan Goolsbee, an economist who was chairman of Mr. Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers. Gene Sperling, a veteran economic adviser dating to the Clinton administration, is another possibility, as is Brian Deese, who was deputy director of the National Economic Council under Mr. Obama.
Mr. Reed, a noted centrist and deficit hawk, was Mr. Clinton’s domestic policy director, and helped develop the welfare overhaul that Mr. Clinton signed into law requiring work and setting time limits.
He has come under fire from prominent liberal members of Congress, including Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, who also oppose consideration of him to lead the Office of Management and Budget, which helps the White House determine economic priorities. But blocking Mr. Reed, who traveled with Mr. Biden for much of the campaign, from the budget office post might only ensure that he winds up in the West Wing, where the president-elect could make him a senior adviser.
To lead the Agriculture Department, Representative James E. Clyburn of South Carolina, the highest-ranking Black member of Congress, is pushing for Representative Marcia L. Fudge, an African-American Democrat from Ohio. Mr. Clyburn, an early and important backer of Mr. Biden, has said the department should be focused more on hunger.
But traditionalists eager to keep a voice from rural America in the post are advocating for Heidi Heitkamp, a former senator from North Dakota, or Tom Vilsack, the former Iowa governor who served as agriculture secretary for Mr. Obama.
To coordinate the response to the pandemic, Jeffrey D. Zients, who was director of the National Economic Council under Mr. Obama, could become Mr. Biden’s “Covid czar.” That job could also go to Vivek H. Murthy, the former surgeon general who helps lead Mr. Biden’s transition panel on the virus.
Mary D. Nichols, California’s climate and clean air regulator, is seen as the top candidate to lead the Environmental Protection Agency. And there is a growing campaign to persuade Mr. Biden to name a Native American as interior secretary. Among the names he is considering: Representative Deb Haaland, Democrat of New Mexico and a rising star in Democratic politics, and Michael Connor, the former deputy interior secretary in the Obama administration. Steve Bullock, the governor of Montana, is also a candidate.
The possibility that Ernest J. Moniz, Mr. Obama’s energy secretary, could reprise his role troubles environmental groups who believe Mr. Moniz did not do enough to steer the country away from fossil fuels. Mr. Biden could also turn to Arun Majumdar, who runs the Precourt Institute for Energy at Stanford.
Rahm Emanuel, Mr. Obama’s former chief of staff and a former mayor of Chicago, is a candidate to run the Transportation Department, but he is disliked by some liberals for how he handled police issues as mayor. Eric M. Garcetti, the mayor of Los Angeles, is another top candidate.
Representative Karen Bass, Democrat of California; Alvin Brown, a former mayor of Jacksonville, Fla.; and Keisha Lance Bottoms, the mayor of Atlanta, are being discussed to lead the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham of New Mexico is interested in becoming secretary of health and human services and would be another Latino in the cabinet.
On Sunday, members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus plan to release a letter to Mr. Biden emphasizing the importance of Hispanic representation, trumpeting Ms. Lujan Grisham’s experience and urging him to make her the health secretary.
Some allies of Mr. Biden’s on Capitol Hill worry that Mr. Biden’s choices for the biggest jobs in government look too much like professional staff members, with no big personalities who may be better suited to helping drive policy. He could rectify that if he picked one of his Democratic primary rivals — Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont or Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts — to lead the Labor Department or the Commerce Department. Liberals would cheer such a nomination, but transition advisers have told Mr. Biden that confirmation of either would be difficult.
In an interview with NBC News, Mr. Biden strongly hinted that he was likely to leave both senators where they are.
“Taking someone out of the Senate, taking someone out of the House — particularly a person of consequence — is a really difficult decision that would have to be made,” Mr. Biden said. “I have a very ambitious, very progressive agenda. And it’s going to take really strong leaders in the House and Senate to get it done.”