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Do Now #57: The President's Cabinet

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Do Now

The President’s Cabinet is a team of advisors who have run an executive department and have specific expertise in a certain area. The Secretary of State, for instance, advises the president on foreign policy, the Secretary of Defense oversees the military, and the Secretary of the Treasury handles economic policy.

So, if you were to apply to be in the President’s Cabinet, what position would you be best suited for and why? Or what other cabinet positions do you think should be included?


Good news! There may be some solid job openings in the President’s administration – although you’re not likely to find them posted on Craigslist.

As President Obama gets ready to begin his second term in the White House, there will be some turnover his Cabinet. The presidential Cabinet is a group that consists of the vice president and 15 executive department heads who have the job of advising the president and helping to run the executive branch of government. The Cabinet usually meets at least once a week. A good description of these 15 positions is listed at PBS News Hour Extra.


It’s pretty common for a re-elected president to rearrange part of his Cabinet in advance of his second term (although it’s not always clear whether departing Cabinet members chose to leave or were told to). Each Cabinet member is nominated by the president, but most have to be confirmed by a majority vote of the U.S. Senate.

So far, the major shakeups include:

  • Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is stepping down. Senator John Kerry has been nominated by the President to replace her.
  • Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner is leaving. Jack Lew, who is currently the president’s Chief of Staff, has been nominated to replace him.
  • Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta will step down. Chuck Hagel, the former Senator from Nebraska, Republican, has been nominated to replace him.
  • Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis, the first Latina to serve in a Cabinet, just announced she is stepping down. It’s unclear yet who will replace her.

The White House has also confirmed that at least three of its Cabinet members are staying put: Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Attorney General Eric Holder and Veteran Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki.

The practice of picking Cabinet members dates back to America’s first president, George Washington, who had a four member cabinet: Secretary of State, Secretary of the Treasury, Secretary of War and Attorney General.

The Cabinet is also in the presidential line of succession should the president be incapable of performing his duties, resign or die. The Presidential Succession Act states who will take his place. The entire Cabinet, therefore, is not supposed to be in one location at the same time. For instance, when the president delivers the State of the Union Address, one of his Cabinet members is chosen to be the designated survivor and is kept in a secure, undisclosed location during the event.

The line of succession is as follows:

  1. Vice President
  2. Speaker of the House of Representatives
  3. President Pro Tempore of the Senate
  4. Secretary of State
  5. Secretary of the Treasury
  6. Secretary of Defense
  7. Attorney General
  8. Secretary of the Interior
  9. Secretary of Agriculture
  10. Secretary of Commerce
  11. Secretary of Labor
  12. Secretary of Health and Human Services
  13. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development
  14. Secretary of Transportation
  15. Secretary of Energy
  16. Secretary of Education
  17. Secretary of Veterans Affairs
  18. Secretary of Homeland Security


Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

NBC Nightly News Obama’s cabinet: ‘All the President’s Men’? – January 10, 2013
The Obama administration is drawing criticism for filling top Cabinet posts with men after the publication of an Oval Office photo showing the President’s top advisers discussing the fiscal cliff negotiations. In the picture, senior adviser Valerie Jarrett is obscured. NBC’s Andrea Mitchell reports.

To respond to the Do Now, you can comment below or tweet your response. Be sure to begin your tweet with@KQEDedspace and end it with #KQEDDoNow

For more info on how to use Twitter, click here.

We encourage students to tweet their personal opinions as well as support their ideas with links to interesting/credible articles online (adding a nice research component) or retweet other people’s ideas that they agree/disagree/find amusing. We also value student-produced media linked to their tweets like memes or more extensive blog posts to represent their ideas. Of course, do as you can…and any contribution is most welcomed.

More Resources

PBS NewsHour segment Obama Taps Chief of Staff Jack Lew for Treasury Secretary – Jan. 10, 2013
Jack Lew has been White House chief of staff and budget director, and, as Jeffrey Brown reports, is now in line to become the center of President Obama’s economic team as Treasury secretary. Judy Woodruff talks to Julianna Goldman of Bloomberg News and Jared Bernstein of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

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