Cabinet of the United States

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The Cabinet of the United States is part of the executive branch of the federal government of the United States. The Cabinet's role, inferred from the language of the Opinion Clause (Article II, Section 2, Clause 1) of the Constitution is to serve as an advisory body to the President of the United States. Additionally, the Twenty-fifth Amendment authorizes the Vice President, together with a majority of certain members of the Cabinet, to declare the president "unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office". Among the senior officers of the Cabinet are the Vice President and the heads of the federal executive departments, all of whom—if eligible—are in the line of succession. Members of the Cabinet (except for the Vice President) serve at the pleasure of the President, who can dismiss them at will for no cause. All federal public officials, including Cabinet members, are also subject to impeachment by the House of Representatives and trial in the Senate for "treason, bribery, and other high crimes and misdemeanors".

The President can also unilaterally designate senior White House staffers, heads of other federal agencies and the Ambassador to the United Nations as members of the Cabinet, although this is a symbolic status marker and does not, apart from attending Cabinet meetings, confer any additional powers.


The tradition of the Cabinet arose out of the debates at the 1787 Constitutional Convention regarding whether the president would exercise executive authority singly 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 should be.

George Washington, the first U.S. President, 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 Woodrow Wilson 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 subcabinet councils to review many policy issues, and subsequent Presidents have followed that practice.[2]

Federal law[edit]

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 incoming 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, or sometimes lower-level appointees of the incoming administration.[5]

Confirmation process[edit]

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 US 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.

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.

Office Senate 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
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


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. 21 positions, including the heads of the executive departments and others, receiving Level I pay are listed in 5 U.S.C. § 5312, and those 46 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 $205,700.[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 also provides an automatic cost of living adjustment for federal employees. The Vice President does not automatically receive a pension based on that office, but instead receives the same pension as other members of Congress based on his ex officio position as President of the Senate.[7]

Current Cabinet and Cabinet-rank officials[edit]

The individuals listed below were nominated by President Donald Trump 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. For a full list of people nominated for Cabinet positions, see Formation of Donald Trump's Cabinet.

Vice President and the Heads of the Executive Departments[edit]

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.

(Constituting instrument)
Incumbent Took office

Vice President
(Constitution, Art. II, Sec. I)

Mike Pence
January 20, 2017

Secretary of State
(22 U.S.C. § 2651a)

Mike Pompeo
April 26, 2018

Secretary of the Treasury
(31 U.S.C. § 301)

Steven Mnuchin
February 13, 2017

Secretary of Defense
(10 U.S.C. § 113)

Patrick M. Shanahan
January 1, 2019

Attorney General
(28 U.S.C. § 503)

Matthew Whitaker
November 7, 2018

Secretary of the Interior
(43 U.S.C. § 1451)

David Bernhardt
January 2, 2019

Secretary of Agriculture
(7 U.S.C. § 2202)

Sonny Perdue
April 25, 2017

Secretary of Commerce
(15 U.S.C. § 1501)

Wilbur Ross
February 28, 2017

Secretary of Labor
(29 U.S.C. § 551)

Alex Acosta
April 28, 2017

Secretary of Health and Human Services
(Reorganization Plan No. 1 of 1953,
67 Stat. 631 and 42 U.S.C. § 3501)

Alex Azar
January 29, 2018

Secretary of Housing and Urban Development
(42 U.S.C. § 3532)

Ben Carson
March 2, 2017

Secretary of Transportation
(49 U.S.C. § 102)

Elaine Chao
January 31, 2017

Secretary of Energy
(42 U.S.C. § 7131)

Rick Perry
March 2, 2017

Secretary of Education
(20 U.S.C. § 3411)

Betsy DeVos
February 7, 2017

Secretary of Veterans Affairs
(38 U.S.C. § 303)

Robert Wilkie
July 30, 2018

Secretary of Homeland Security
(6 U.S.C. § 112)

Kirstjen Nielsen
December 6, 2017

Cabinet-level officials[edit]

The following officials hold positions that are considered to be Cabinet-level positions. Cabinet-level officials attend Cabinet meetings, but are not official Cabinet Members:

Cabinet-level Officials
Office Incumbent Term began

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)

Mick Mulvaney
January 2, 2019

Trade Representative
(19 U.S.C. § 2171)

Robert Lighthizer
May 15, 2017

Director of National Intelligence[9][10]
(50 U.S.C. § 3023)

Dan Coats
March 16, 2017

Ambassador to the United Nations
(22 U.S.C. § 287, Executive Order 9844, Executive Order 10108)

Jonathan Cohen
January 1, 2019

Director of the Office of Management and Budget
(31 U.S.C. § 502, Executive Order 11541,
Executive Order 11609, Executive Order 11717)

Mick Mulvaney
February 16, 2017

Director of the Central Intelligence Agency[9]
(50 U.S.C. § 3036)

Gina Haspel
April 26, 2018

Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency
(5 U.S.C. § 906, Executive Order 11735)

Andrew Wheeler
July 9, 2018

Administrator of the Small Business Administration
(15 U.S.C. § 633)

Linda McMahon
February 14, 2017

Former executive and Cabinet-level departments[edit]

Renamed heads of the executive departments[edit]

Other positions no longer of Cabinet rank[edit]

Proposed Cabinet departments[edit]

  • "Department of Industry and Commerce", proposed by Secretary of the Treasury William Windom in a speech given at a Chamber of Commerce dinner in May 1881.[22]
  • "Department of Natural Resources", proposed by the Eisenhower administration,[23] President Richard Nixon,[24] the 1976 GOP national platform,[25] and by Bill Daley (as a consolidation of the Departments of the Interior and Energy, and the Environmental Protection Agency).[26]
  • "Department of Peace", proposed by Senator Matthew Neely in the 1930s, Congressman Dennis Kucinich, and other members of the U.S. Congress.[27][28]
  • "Department of Social Welfare", proposed by President Franklin Roosevelt in January 1937.[29]
  • "Department of Public Works", proposed by President Franklin Roosevelt in January 1937.[29]
  • "Department of Conservation" (renamed Department of Interior) proposed by President Franklin Roosevelt in January 1937.[29]
  • "Department of Urban Affairs and Housing", proposed by President John F. Kennedy.[30]
  • "Department of Business and Labor", proposed by President Lyndon Johnson.[31]
  • "Department of Community Development", proposed by President Richard Nixon; to be chiefly concerned with rural infrastructure development.[24][32]
  • "Department of Human Resources" proposed by President Richard Nixon; essentially a revised Department of Health, Education, and Welfare.[24]
  • "Department of Economic Affairs" proposed by President Richard Nixon; essentially a consolidation of the Departments of Commerce, Labor, and Agriculture.[33]
  • "Department of Environmental Protection", proposed by Senator Arlen Specter and others.[34]
  • "Department of Intelligence", proposed by former Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell.[35]
  • "Department of Global Development", proposed by the Center for Global Development.[36]
  • "Department of Arts", proposed by Quincy Jones.[37]
  • "Department of Business", proposed by President Barack Obama as a consolidation of the U.S. Department of Commerce's core business and trade functions, the Small Business Administration, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, the Export-Import Bank, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, and the U.S. Trade and Development Agency.[38][39]
  • "Department of Education and the Workforce" proposed by President Donald Trump as a consolidation of the Departments of Education and Labor.[40]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Prakash, Sai. "Essays on Article II:Executive Vesting Clause". The Heritage Guide to The Constitution. The Heritage Foundation. Retrieved July 3, 2018.
  2. ^ a b Gaziano, Todd. "Essays on Article II: Opinion Clause". The Heritage Guide to The Constitution. The Heritage Foundation. Retrieved July 3, 2018.
  3. ^
  4. ^ Wulwick, Richard P.; Macchiarola, Frank J. (1995). "Congressional Interference With The President's Power To Appoint" (PDF). Stetson Law Review. XXIV: 625–652.
  5. ^ Pierce, Olga (2009-01-22). "Who Runs Departments Before Heads Are Confirmed?". ProPublica. Retrieved 2017-01-20.
  6. ^ a b Obama, Barack (2014-12-19). "ADJUSTMENTS OF CERTAIN RATES OF PAY" (PDF). EXECUTIVE ORDER 13686. The White House. Retrieved 2015-09-18.
  7. ^ Purcell, Patrick J. (2005-01-21). "Retirement Benefits for Members of Congress" (PDF). CRS Report for Congress. Congressional Research Service. Retrieved 2017-02-19.
  8. ^ The White House. "The Cabinet". Retrieved June 20, 2015.
  9. ^ a b "President Donald J. Trump Announces His Cabinet". White House. February 8, 2017. Retrieved February 20, 2017.
  10. ^ Demirjian, Karoun (March 15, 2017). "Coats confirmed as nation's new spy chief". Washington Post. Retrieved 16 March 2017.
  11. ^ The office of Secretary of Foreign Affairs existed under the Articles of Confederation from October 20, 1781 to March 3, 1789, the day before the Constitution came into force.
  12. ^ "Clayton Yeutter's Obituary". The Washington Post.
  13. ^ "President Clinton Raises FEMA Director to Cabinet Status" (Press release). Federal Emergency Management Agency. February 26, 1996. Archived from the original on January 16, 1997. Retrieved May 22, 2009.
  14. ^ Fowler, Daniel (November 19, 2008). "Emergency Managers Make It Official: They Want FEMA Out of DHS". CQ Politics. Archived from the original on March 4, 2010. Retrieved March 3, 2010. During the Clinton administration, FEMA Administrator James Lee Witt met with the Cabinet. His successor in the Bush administration, Joe M. Allbaugh, did not.(Archived March 3, 2010, by WebCite at
  15. ^ Tenet, George (2007). At the Center of the Storm. London: HarperCollins. p. 136. ISBN 0-06-114778-8. Under President Clinton, I was a Cabinet member—a legacy of John Deutch's requirement when he took the job as DCI—but my contacts with the president, while always interesting, were sporadic. I could see him as often as I wanted but was not on a regular schedule. Under President Bush, the DCI lost its Cabinet-level status.
  16. ^ Schoenfeld, Gabriel (July–August 2007). "The CIA Follies (Cont'd.)". Commentary. Retrieved May 22, 2009. Though he was to lose the Cabinet rank he had enjoyed under Clinton, he came to enjoy "extraordinary access" to the new President, who made it plain that he wanted to be briefed every day.
  17. ^ Sciolino, Elaine (September 29, 1996). "C.I.A. Chief Charts His Own Course". New York Times. Retrieved May 22, 2009. It is no secret that Mr. Deutch initially turned down the intelligence position, and was rewarded for taking it by getting Cabinet rank.
  18. ^ Clinton, Bill (July 1, 1993). "Remarks by the President and Lee Brown, Director of Office of National Drug Control Policy". White House. Retrieved May 22, 2009. We are here today to install a uniquely qualified person to lead our nation's effort in the fight against illegal drugs and what they do to our children, to our streets, and to our communities. And to do it for the first time from a position sitting in the President's Cabinet.
  19. ^ Cook, Dave (March 11, 2009). "New drug czar gets lower rank, promise of higher visibility". Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved March 16, 2009. For one thing, in the Obama administration the Drug Czar will not have Cabinet status, as the job did during George W. Bush's administration.
  20. ^ "President Donald J. Trump Announces His Cabinet". 2017-02-08. Retrieved 2017-02-09.
  21. ^ "President Trump announces his full Cabinet roster". Retrieved 2017-02-09.
  22. ^ "A Department of Commerce" (PDF). The New York Times. 1881-05-13.
  23. ^ Company, DIANE Publishing (April 1, 1998). "Improving Management and Organization in Federal Natural Resources and Environmental Functions: Hearing Before the Committee on Governmental Affairs, U. S. Senate". DIANE Publishing. Retrieved February 20, 2017 – via Google Books. Chairman STEVENS. Thank you very much. I think both of you are really pointing in the same direction as this Committee. I do hope we can keep it on a bipartisan basis. Mr. Dean, when I was at the Interior Department, I drafted Eisenhower's Department of Natural Resources proposal, and we have had a series of them that have been presented.
  24. ^ a b c "116 - Special Message to the Congress on Executive Branch Reorganization". The University of California, Santa Barbara - The American Presidency Project. The administration is today transmitting to the Congress four bills which, if enacted, would replace seven of the present executive departments and several other agencies with four new departments: the Department of Natural Resources, the Department of Community Development, the Department of Human Resources and the Department of Economic Affairs.
  25. ^ "Republican Party Platform of 1976". The University of California, Santa Barbara - The American Presidency Project. August 18, 1976.
  26. ^ Thrush, Glenn (November 8, 2013). "Locked in the Cabinet". Politico. Retrieved November 18, 2013.
  27. ^ Schuman, Frederick L. (1969). Why a Department of Peace. Beverly Hills: Another Mother for Peace. p. 56. OCLC 339785.
  28. ^ "History of Legislation to Create a Dept. of Peace". Archived from the original on 2006-07-20.
  29. ^ a b c "10 - Summary of the Report of the Committee on Administrative Management". The University of California, Santa Barbara - The American Presidency Project. Overhaul the more than 100 separate departments, boards, commissions, administrations, authorities, corporations, committees, agencies and activities which are now parts of the Executive Branch, and theoretically under the President, and consolidate them within twelve regular departments, which would include the existing ten departments and two new departments, a Department of Social Welfare, and a Department of Public Works. Change the name of the Department of Interior to Department of Conservation.
  30. ^ "23 - Special Message to the Congress Transmitting Reorganization Plan 1 of 1962". The University of California, Santa Barbara - The American Presidency Project.
  31. ^ "121 - Special Message to the Congress: The Quality of American Government". The University of California, Santa Barbara - The American Presidency Project. In my State of the Union Address, and later in my Budget and Economic Messages to the Congress, I proposed the creation of a new Department of Business and Labor.
  32. ^ "33 - Special Message to the Congress on Rural Development". The University of California, Santa Barbara - The American Presidency Project.
  33. ^ "116 - Special Message to the Congress on Executive Branch Reorganization". The University of California, Santa Barbara - The American Presidency Project. The new Department of Economic Affairs would include many of the offices that are now within the Departments of Commerce, Labor and Agriculture. A large part of the Department of Transportation would also be relocated here, including the United States Coast Guard, the Federal Railroad Administration, the St. Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation, the National Transportation Safety Board, the Transportation Systems Center, the Federal Aviation Administration, the Motor Carrier Safety Bureau and most of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The Small Business Administration, the Science Information Exchange program from the Smithsonian Institution, the National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety from the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare and the Office of Technology Utilization from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration would also be included in the new Department.
  34. ^ "Public Notes on 02-RMSP3". Retrieved February 20, 2017.
  35. ^ J. Stapelton Roy (June 29, 2007). "A Conversation with Michael McConnell". Council on Foreign Relations. Archived from the original on January 17, 2013. Retrieved January 9, 2013.
  36. ^ "Time for a Cabinet-Level U.S. Department of Global Development". The Center for Global Development.
  37. ^ Clarke, Jr., John (January 16, 2009). "Quincy Jones Lobbies Obama for Secretary of Culture Post". Rolling Stone. Retrieved August 19, 2010.
  38. ^ "President Obama Announces proposal to reform, reorganize and consolidate Government". Barack Obama White House.
  39. ^ "Obama Suggests 'Secretary of Business' in a 2nd Term - Washington Wire - WSJ". The Wall Street Journal.
  40. ^ "White House Proposes Merging Education And Labor Departments". Retrieved 2018-06-22.

Further reading[edit]

  • Bennett, Anthony. The American President's Cabinet. Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire: Macmillan, 1996. ISBN 0-333-60691-4. A study of the U.S. Cabinet from Kennedy to Clinton.
  • Grossman, Mark. Encyclopedia of the United States Cabinet (Santa Barbara, California: ABC-CLIO; three volumes, 2000; reprint, New York: Greyhouse Publishing; two volumes, 2010). A history of the United States and Confederate States Cabinets, their secretaries, and their departments.
  • Rudalevige, Andrew. "The President and the Cabinet", in Michael Nelson, ed., The Presidency and the Political System, 8th ed. (Washington, D.C.: CQ Press, 2006).

External links[edit]