Cabinet of the United States

Last updated

Cabinet of the United States
Current: Cabinet of Joe Biden
Great Seal of the United States (obverse).svg
Agency overview
FormedMarch 4, 1789
(231 years ago)
 (1789-03-04)
TypeAdvisory body
Headquarters Cabinet Room, White House, Washington, D.C.
Employees23 members:
Agency executive
Key document
Website www.whitehouse.gov

The Cabinet of the United States is a body consisting of the vice president of the United States and the heads of federal executive departments of the executive branch of the federal government of the United States which is regarded as the principal advisory body to the President of the United States. The president is not formally a member of the Cabinet. The heads of departments, appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate, are members of the Cabinet, and acting department heads also sit at Cabinet meetings whether or not they have been officially nominated for Senate confirmation. The president may designate heads of other agencies and non-Senate-confirmed members of the Executive Office of the President as Cabinet-level members of the Cabinet.

Contents

The Cabinet does not have any collective executive powers or functions of its own, and no votes need to be taken. As of January 15, 2021, there were 23 members of Cabinet: the Vice President, 15 department heads (of which 4 were acting), and 7 were Cabinet-level members. The Cabinet meets with the president in a room adjacent to the Oval Office.

The members of the Cabinet serve at the pleasure of the president, who can dismiss them at any time without the approval of the Senate, as affirmed by the Supreme Court of the United States in Myers v. United States (1926), or downgrade their Cabinet membership status. The president can organise the Cabinet as he sees fit, such as instituting committees. Like all federal public officials, Cabinet members are also subject to impeachment by the House of Representatives and trial in the Senate for "treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors".

The Constitution of the United States does not explicitly establish a Cabinet. The Cabinet's role, inferred from the language of the Opinion Clause (Article II, Section 2, Clause 1) of the Constitution is to provide advice to the President. Additionally, the Twenty-fifth Amendment authorizes the vice president, together with a majority of the heads of the executive departments, to declare the president "unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office". The heads of the executive departments are—if eligible—in the presidential line of succession.

History

James K. Polk and his Cabinet in 1845: the first Cabinet to be photographed. State-dining-room-polk-cabinet.jpg
James K. Polk and his Cabinet in 1845: the first Cabinet to be photographed.
The Nixon Cabinet, 1970 President Nixon with his first term cabinet.jpg
The Nixon Cabinet, 1970
The first Obama Cabinet (September 2009) President Barack Obama with full cabinet 09-10-09.jpg
The first Obama Cabinet (September 2009)

The tradition of the Cabinet arose out of the debates at the 1787 Constitutional Convention regarding whether the president would exercise executive authority solely or collaboratively with a cabinet of ministers or a privy council. As a result of the debates, the Constitution (Article II, Section 1, Clause 1) vests "all executive power" in the president singly, and authorizes—but does not compel—the president (Article II, Section 2, Clause 1) to "require the Opinion, in writing, of the principal Officer in each of the executive Departments, upon any Subject relating to the Duties of their respective Offices". [1] [2] The Constitution does not specify what the executive departments will be, how many there will be, or what their duties will be.

George Washington, the first president of the United States, organized his principal officers into a Cabinet, and it has been part of the executive branch structure ever since. Washington's Cabinet consisted of five members: himself, Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson, Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton, Secretary of War Henry Knox and Attorney General Edmund Randolph. Vice President John Adams was not included in Washington's Cabinet because the position was initially regarded as a legislative officer (president of the Senate). [3] It was not until the 20th century that vice presidents were regularly included as members of the Cabinet and came to be regarded primarily as a member of the executive branch.

Presidents have used Cabinet meetings of selected principal officers but to widely differing extents and for different purposes. Secretary of State William H. Seward and then-professor Woodrow Wilson advocated the use of a parliamentary-style Cabinet government. But President Abraham Lincoln rebuffed Seward; and Wilson, after becoming president, would have none of it in his administration. In recent administrations, Cabinets have grown to include key White House staff in addition to department and various agency heads. President Ronald Reagan formed seven sub-cabinet councils to review many policy issues, and subsequent presidents have followed that practice. [2]

Federal law

In 3 U.S.C.   § 302 with regard to delegation of authority by the president, it is provided that "nothing herein shall be deemed to require express authorization in any case in which such an official would be presumed in law to have acted by authority or direction of the president." This pertains directly to the heads of the executive departments as each of their offices is created and specified by statutory law (hence the presumption) and thus gives them the authority to act for the president within their areas of responsibility without any specific delegation.

Under the 1967 Federal Anti-Nepotism statute, federal officials are prohibited from appointing their immediate family members to certain governmental positions, including those in the Cabinet. [4]

Under the Federal Vacancies Reform Act of 1998, an administration may appoint acting heads of department from employees of the relevant department. These may be existing high-level career employees, from political appointees of the outgoing administration (for new administrations), or sometimes lower-level appointees of the administration. [5]

Confirmation process

A map showing the historical makeup of the Cabinet of the United States by year. Top Left Cabinet Image.png
A map showing the historical makeup of the Cabinet of the United States by year.

The heads of the executive departments and all other federal agency heads are nominated by the president and then presented to the Senate for confirmation or rejection by a simple majority (although before the use of the "nuclear option" during the 113th United States Congress, they could have been blocked by filibuster, requiring cloture to be invoked by 35 supermajority to further consideration). If approved, they receive their commission scroll, are sworn in and then begin their duties. When the Senate us not in session, the President can appoint acting heads of the executive departments and so do at the beginning of his term.

An elected vice president does not require Senate confirmation, nor does the White House chief of staff, which is an appointed staff position of the Executive Office of the President.

OfficeSenate confirmation review committee
Secretary of State Foreign Relations Committee
Secretary of the Treasury Finance Committee
Secretary of Defense Armed Services Committee
Attorney General Judiciary Committee
Secretary of the Interior Energy and Natural Resources Committee
Secretary of Agriculture Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Committee
Secretary of Commerce Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee
Secretary of Labor Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee
Secretary of Health and Human Services Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee (consult)
Finance Committee (official)
Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee
Secretary of Transportation Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee
Secretary of Energy Energy and Natural Resources Committee
Secretary of Education Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee
Secretary of Veterans Affairs Veterans Affairs Committee
Secretary of Homeland Security Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee
Trade Representative Finance Committee
Director of National Intelligence Select Committee on Intelligence
Director of the Office of Management and Budget Budget Committee
Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee
Director of the Central Intelligence Agency Select Committee on Intelligence
Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency Environment and Public Works Committee
Administrator of the Small Business Administration Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee

Salary

The heads of the executive departments and most other senior federal officers at cabinet or sub-cabinet level receive their salary under a fixed five-level pay plan known as the Executive Schedule, which is codified in Title 5 of the United States Code. Twenty-one positions, including the heads of the executive departments and others, receiving Level I pay are listed in 5 U.S.C.   § 5312, and those forty-six positions on Level II pay (including the number two positions of the executive departments) are listed in 5 U.S.C.   § 5313. As of January 2016, the Level I annual pay was set at $206,000. [6]

The annual salary of the vice president is $235,300. [6] The salary level was set by the Government Salary Reform Act of 1989, which provides an automatic cost of living adjustment for federal employees. The vice president receives the same pension as other members of Congress based on their ex officio position as the president of the Senate. [7]

Current Cabinet and Cabinet-rank officials

The individuals listed below were nominated by President Joe Biden to form his Cabinet and were confirmed by the United States Senate on the date noted, or are serving as acting department heads by his request pending the confirmation of his nominees.

Vice president and the heads of the executive departments

The Cabinet includes the vice president and the heads of 15 executive departments, listed here according to their order of succession to the presidency. These 15 positions are the core "cabinet member" seats, as distinct from other Cabinet-level seats for other various top level White House staffers and heads of other government agencies, none of whom are in the presidential line of succession and not all of whom are officers of the United States. [8] Note that the speaker of the House and the president pro tempore of the Senate follow the vice president and precede the secretary of state in the order of succession, but both are in the legislative branch and are not part of the Cabinet.

Cabinet
Office
(Constituting instrument)
IncumbentTook office
US Vice President Seal.svg
Vice President
(Constitution, Art. II, Sec. I)
Kamala Harris official photo (cropped2).jpg
Kamala Harris
January 20, 2021
Seal of the United States Secretary of State.svg
Secretary of State
(22 U.S.C.   § 2651a)
Daniel Bennett Smith ambassador.jpg
Daniel Bennett Smith
January 20, 2021
Acting [9]
US-DeptOfTheTreasury-Seal.svg
Secretary of the Treasury
(31 U.S.C.   § 301)
Andy Baukol US Treasury Dept.jpg
Andy Baukol
January 20, 2021
Acting [9]
United States Department of Defense Seal.svg
Secretary of Defense
(10 U.S.C.   § 113)
Austin 2013 2.jpg
Lloyd Austin
January 22, 2021
US-DeptOfJustice-Seal.svg
Attorney General
(28 U.S.C.   § 503)
Monty Wilkinson DOJ official photo.jpg
Monty Wilkinson
January 20, 2021
Acting [9]
US-DeptOfTheInterior-Seal.svg
Secretary of the Interior
(43 U.S.C.   § 1451)
Scott de la Vega US Dept of the Interior.jpg
Scott de la Vega
January 20, 2021
Acting [9]
US-DeptOfAgriculture-Seal2.svg
Secretary of Agriculture
(7 U.S.C.   § 2202)
Kevin Shea US Dept of Agriculture.jpg
Kevin Shea
January 20, 2021
Acting [9]
US-DeptOfCommerce-Seal.svg
Secretary of Commerce
(15 U.S.C.   § 1501)
Wynn Coggins US Commerce Dept.jpg
Wynn Coggins
January 20, 2021
Acting [9]
US-DeptOfLabor-Seal.svg
Secretary of Labor
(29 U.S.C.   § 551)
SecAlStewart.jpg
Al Stewart
January 20, 2021
Acting [9]
US-DeptOfHHS-Seal.svg
Secretary of Health and Human Services
(Reorganization Plan No. 1 of 1953,
67  Stat.   631 and 42 U.S.C.   § 3501)
Norris Cochran.jpg
Norris Cochran
January 20, 2021
Acting [9]
US-DeptOfHUD-Seal.svg
Secretary of Housing and Urban Development
(42 U.S.C.   § 3532)
Matt Ammonn US Dept of HUD.jpg
Matt Ammon
January 20, 2021
Acting [9]
US-DeptOfTransportation-Seal.svg
Secretary of Transportation
(49 U.S.C.   § 102)
Lana Hurdle US Dept of Transportation.jpg
Lana Hurdle
January 20, 2021
Acting [9]
US-DeptOfEnergy-Seal.svg
Secretary of Energy
(42 U.S.C.   § 7131)
David G. Huizenga official portrait.jpg
David Huizenga
January 20, 2021
Acting [9]
US-DeptOfEducation-Seal.svg
Secretary of Education
(20 U.S.C.   § 3411)
Phil Rosenfelt US Dept of Education.jpg
Phil Rosenfelt
January 20, 2021
Acting [9]
Seal of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.svg
Secretary of Veterans Affairs
(38 U.S.C.   § 303)
Dat Tran Dept of Vet Affairs.jpg
Dat Tran
January 20, 2021
Acting [9]
Seal of the United States Department of Homeland Security.svg
Secretary of Homeland Security
(6 U.S.C.   § 112)
David Pekoske official TSA portrait (cropped).jpg
David Pekoske
January 20, 2021
Acting [9]

Cabinet-level officials

The following officials hold positions that are considered to be Cabinet-level positions (which can vary under each president):

Cabinet-level Officials
OfficeIncumbentTerm began
Environmental Protection Agency logo.svg
Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency
(5 U.S.C.   § 906, Executive Order 11735)
Jane Nishida.jpg
Jane Nishida
January 20, 2021
Acting [9]
US-OfficeOfManagementAndBudget-Seal.svg
Director of the Office of Management and Budget
(31 U.S.C.   § 502, Executive Order 11541,
Executive Order 11609, Executive Order 11717)
Rob Fairweather January 20, 2021
Acting [9]
Seal of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.svg
Director of National Intelligence
(50 U.S.C.   § 3023)
Avril Haines portrait 2.jpg
Avril Haines
January 21, 2021 [10]
US-TradeRepresentative-Seal.svg
Trade Representative
(19 U.S.C.   § 2171)
Maria Pagan January 20, 2021
Acting [9]
Department of state.svg
Ambassador to the United Nations
RichardMillsJr.jpg
Richard M. Mills Jr.
January 20, 2021
Acting [9]
Seal of the Executive Office of the President of the United States 2014.svg
Chair of the Council of Economic Advisors
vacant
US-SmallBusinessAdmin-Seal.svg
Administrator of the Small Business Administration
(15 U.S.C.   § 633)
Tami Perriello January 20, 2021
Acting [9]
Seal of the Executive Office of the President of the United States 2014.svg
Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy
Science Advisor to the President
vacant
Seal of the Executive Office of the President of the United States 2014.svg
White House Chief of Staff
(Pub.L.   76–19, 53  Stat.   561, enacted April 3, 1939,
Executive Order 8248, Executive Order 10452,
Executive Order 12608)
Ron Klain 2015.jpg
Ron Klain
January 20, 2021

    Former executive and Cabinet-level departments

    Renamed heads of the executive departments

    Positions intermittently elevated to Cabinet-rank

    Proposed Cabinet departments

    See also

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    Further reading