Fudge and her supporters have been angling for multiple cabinet positions, most notably Secretary of Agriculture, but will now prepare to take over a department struggling to deal with a tidal wave of evictions and foreclosures due to the economic devastation resulting from the coronavirus pandemic.
The $50 billion agency is currently run by former presidential candidate Ben Carson, who has faced criticism throughout his tenure for several scandals and regulation changes that have hurt vulnerable communities.
Fudge is on the House Agriculture Committee and has been in the House since 2008, representing Ohio's 11th Congressional District. In the past, she has served as chair of the Congressional Black Caucus and is also on House Administration, and Education and Labor committees, according to CNN.
Sources told CNN that Fudge would have preferred the Secretary of Agriculture role but will happily accept the one for which she's been selected.
"If I were to be named, certainly it's an honor and a privilege to be asked to be in a president's cabinet. It is something that probably in my wildest dreams I never would have thought about," Fudge said to CNN on Tuesday evening, declining to confirm whether she had been officially chosen.
"So if I can help this president in any way possible, I'm more than happy to do it. It's a great honor and a privilege to be part of something so good," she added.
CNN noted that after working as a prosecutor for many years, Fudge became the first woman and first Black person ever elected in Warrensville Heights, Ohio, where she served from 2000 to 2008.
The move comes just one day after more than 1,000 Black women demanded Biden choose more Black women for senior cabinet roles after they helped propel him to victory in key states on November 3.
There has been jockeying, and anger, from multiple ethnic groups and caucuses who want more representation in the coming Biden administration.
In addition to Black leaders in Congress, Native American tribal leaders, Asian members of Congress and Hispanic caucus members have all expressed varying levels of dismay that two of the most important jobs in the White House, Secretary of State and Chief of Staff, went to white men.
Biden did appoint Linda Greenfield as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations and Cecilia Rouse as leader of the Council of Economic Advisers, but the letter asked for Black women to serve in more cabinet-level roles, adding that it was not enough to simply have Vice President-elect Kamala Harris in the White House.
NAACP President Derrick Johnson spoke to CNN about diversity in Biden's cabinet and explained that he wanted the president-elect to do a better job of diversifying senior political positions. He told CNN that when former President Bill Clinton left office, Black people were in just 6.2% of all political appointee positions while former President Barack Obama left with nearly 12% of Black people in those same positions.
"We oftentimes as a country talk about the reaction to history as opposed to talking about the opportunity of the future as it relates to diversity and equity. And that's what we want to lean into," Johnson said.
He and other civil rights leaders met with Biden and Harris on Tuesday to discuss the creation of a new cabinet position called National Adviser on Racial Justice, Equity and Advancement, which would be similar to the climate change envoy position Biden created last month for former Senator John Kerry.
Congressman Jim Clyburn, who was pivotal in saving Biden's flailing primary campaign earlier this year, has been pushing Biden to appoint more Black people to the cabinet and recently predicted that while Fudge may not get the agriculture spot she wanted, she would get something else.
“Look for her to be in the cabinet. It may not be at Agriculture, but she will be nominated to be in the cabinet,” Clyburn said on MSNBC on Monday.
Last month, Fudge spoke with Politico about her frustration with previous administrations that relegated Black candidates for the cabinet to specific roles.
“As this country becomes more and more diverse, we're going to have to stop looking at only certain agencies as those that people like me fit in. You know, it's always ‘we want to put the Black person in Labor or HUD,’” she said.