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:
- Vice President
- Speaker of the House of Representatives
- President Pro Tempore of the Senate
- Secretary of State
- Secretary of the Treasury
- Secretary of Defense
- Attorney General
- Secretary of the Interior
- Secretary of Agriculture
- Secretary of Commerce
- Secretary of Labor
- Secretary of Health and Human Services
- Secretary of Housing and Urban Development
- Secretary of Transportation
- Secretary of Energy
- Secretary of Education
- Secretary of Veterans Affairs
- Secretary of Homeland Security
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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.
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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.