Confirmations of Barack Obama's Cabinet

Confirmations of Barack Obama's Cabinet
The Obama Cabinet.

The President of the United States has the authority to nominate members of his or her cabinet to the United States Senate for confirmation under Article II, Section II, Clause II of the United States Constitution. This page documents the nomination and confirmation process for any successful or unsuccessful cabinet nominees of Obama Administration. They are listed in order of creation of the cabinet position (also used as the basis for the United States presidential line of succession).



Secretary of State

Clinton takes the oath-of-office as Secretary of State, administered by Associate Judge Kathryn Oberly as Bill Clinton holds the Bible.

The Secretary of State designate is reviewed and presented to the full Senate by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Hillary Rodham Clinton assumed the office of Secretary of State on January 21, 2009.

In mid-November 2008, President-elect Obama and Clinton discussed the possibility of her serving as U.S. Secretary of State in his administration,[1] along with rumored nominees such as Bill Richardson, John Kerry, Sam Nunn and Chuck Hagel[2] and on November 21, reports indicated that she had accepted the position.[3] On December 1, President-elect Obama formally announced that Clinton would be his nominee for Secretary of State.[4] Clinton said she was reluctant to leave the Senate, but that the new position represented a "difficult and exciting adventure".[4] The appointment required a Saxbe fix, as Clinton was then a member of the United States Senate.[5] As part of the nomination, Clinton's husband, former president Bill Clinton, agreed to accept a number of conditions and restrictions regarding his ongoing activities and fundraising efforts for the Clinton Presidential Center and Clinton Global Initiative.[6]

Confirmation hearings before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee began on January 13, 2009, a week before the Obama inauguration; two days later, the committee voted 16–1 to approve Clinton.[7] By this time, Clinton's public approval rating had reached 65 percent, the highest point since the Lewinsky scandal.[8] On January 21, 2009, Clinton was confirmed in the full Senate by a roll call vote of 94–2.[9] Clinton took the oath of office of Secretary of State and resigned from the Senate the same day.[10]

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry stated that he expected Clinton to face some tough questions, but thought she was going to do a good job at (being Secretary of State).[11] Christopher Hitchens of Vanity Fair called her nomination a ludicrous embarrassment on the November 18, 2008 edition of Hardball due to the Clintons' overseas connections, her actions during the 2008 Democratic Presidential Primary.[12] Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas) voted against a unanimous voice approval, citing ethical concerns. He sought not to block the nomination through a filibuster, but to voice his opposition to her policies.[13] Senator David Vitter (R-Louisiana) voted against Clinton in Committee citing her husbands' foreign donations for his non-profit entities, although there is speculation that Vitter's vote may have been an attempt to stake conservative ground in his upcoming reelection campaign.[14]

Secretary of the Treasury

Geithner is sworn in as Treasury Secretary

The Secretary of the Treasury is reviewed by the Senate Finance Committee.Timothy Geithner assumed the office of Treasury Secretary on January 26, 2009. On November 24, 2008, President-elect Barack Obama announced his intention to nominate Timothy Geithner to be Treasury Secretary, replacing Henry Paulson.[15][16] Geithner believes, along with Paulson, that the United States Treasury Department needs new authority to experiment with responses to the financial crisis of 2008.

In a written statement, Geithner said that China is manipulating the Renminbi by purposefully keeping its value low in order to make its exported products seem cheaper on the world market.[17] If confirmed, Geither said to the Senate Finance Committee that he would ask the Obama administration to pressure China diplomatically to change this practice,[17] more strongly than the Bush administration did.[18] The United States maintains that China's actions hurt American businesses and contributed to the financial crisis.[19]

At the Senate confirmation hearings, it was revealed through documentary evidence that Geithner had not paid $35,000 self-employment taxes for several years,[20] even though he had acknowledged his obligation to do so, and had filed a request for, and received, a payment for half the taxes owed. The failure to pay self-employment taxes was noted during a 2006 audit by the Internal Revenue Service, in which Geithner was assessed additional taxes of $14,847 for the 2003 and 2004 tax years.

Geithner failed to pay, or to admit his failure to pay, the self-employment taxes for the 2001 and 2002 tax years until after President-elect Obama expressed his intent to nominate Geithner to be Secretary of Treasury.[21] He also deducted the cost of his children's sleep-away camp as a dependent care expense, when only expenses for day care are eligible for the deduction.[22] Geithner subsequently paid the IRS the additional taxes owed,[23] and was charged interest of $15,000, but was not fined for late payment.[24] In addition, his housekeeper's work authorization lapsed during the last three months she worked for him.[25]

Geithner's employer at the time, the International Monetary Fund, gives its American employees the employer's half of the payroll taxes, expecting that the employees will deposit the money with the Internal Revenue Service.[26] A report from the Senate Finance Committee documented Geithner's errors.[27] While working for IMF, Geithner signed a tax worksheet stating his "obligation of the U.S. Social Security tax, which I will pay on my fund income"[27] and another annual worksheet stating "I wish to apply for tax allowance of U.S. federal and state income taxes and the difference between the 'self-employed' and 'employed' obligation of the U.S. Social Security tax which I will pay on my Fund income."[28]

In a statement to the Senate panel considering his nomination, Geithner called the tax issues "careless", "avoidable", and "unintentional" errors, and he said he wanted to "apologize to the committee for putting you in the position of having to spend so much time on these issues."[23] Geithner testified that he used TurboTax to prepare his own return and that the tax errors are his own responsibility.[29] The Washington Post quoted a tax expert who said that TurboTax has not been programmed to handle self-employment taxes when the user identifies himself as being employed.[30] Geithner said at the hearing that he was always under the impression that he was an employee, not a self-employed contractor,[30] while he served as director of the Policy Development and Review Department of IMF.[31]

Commentator Michelle Malkin posted on her web site, "IRS employment application packets notify potential workers that the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration vets all candidates and current employees 'who have violated or are violating laws, rules, or regulations related to the performance of their duties.' President-elect Obama is standing by a nominee who would oversee the IRS, but might not even qualify for a lesser job at the agency."[32] Former Speaker of the House of Representatives Newt Gingrich, who also opposes his nomination said, "The IRS did not fine him. Ask small businesses how many of them think they could avoid paying self-employment Social Security and Medicare taxes for seven years and not be fined."[24] "Had he not been nominated for Treasury Secretary it's doubtful that he would have ever paid these taxes," Republican Senator Lindsay Graham supported Geithner's nomination, calling him "very, very competent" and "the right guy" for Secretary of the Treasury.[33]

On January 26, 2009, the U.S. Senate confirmed Geithner's appointment by a vote of 60–34.[34][35] Geithner was sworn in as Treasury Secretary by Vice President Joe Biden and witnessed by President Barack Obama.[36]

Secretary of Defense

Gates being sworn in as Defense Secretary on December 18, 2006.

Robert Gates assumed the office of Secretary of Defense on December 18, 2006, under then-President George W. Bush. The retention of Gates fulfilled Obama's pledge made on the campaign trail to have a Republican in his Cabinet.[37]

On December 1, 2008, President-elect Obama announced that Robert Gates would remain in his position as Secretary of Defense during his administration,[38] reportedly for at least the first year of Obama's presidency.[39]

Gates is the fourteenth Cabinet member in history to serve under two Presidents of different parties. One of the first priorities under President Barack Obama’s administration for Gates will be a review of U.S. policy and strategy in Afghanistan.[40] Gates, sixth in the presidential line of succession, was selected as designated survivor during Obama's inauguration.[41]

On April, 18, 2011 Leon Panetta, the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, was nominated to replace Gates. On June 21, 2011, the United States Senate confirmed Panetta in a 100-0 vote.[42] He took office on June 30, 2011

Attorney General

The confirmation of the office of Attorney General is overseen by the Senate Judiciary Committee.

On December 1, 2008, Obama announced that Eric Holder would be his nominee for Attorney General.[38][43] Holder was formally nominated on January 20, 2009[44] and approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee on January 28.[45] Following his confirmation by the full Senate by a 75–21 vote on February 2, 2009, he became the first African-American Attorney General of the United States.[46][47]

In late 2007, Holder joined then-United States Senator Barack Obama's presidential campaign as a senior legal advisor. He served on Obama's vice presidential selection committee.

Holder favors closing the Guantanamo Bay detention camp,[48] although he has said that the detainees are not technically entitled to Geneva convention protections.[49] He is opposed to the Bush administration's implementation of the Patriot Act, saying it is "bad ultimately for law enforcement and will cost us the support of the American people."[50][51] He has been critical of US torture policy and the NSA warrantless surveillance program, accusing the Bush administration of a "disrespect for the rule of law... [that is] not only wrong, it is destructive in our struggle against terrorism."[52]

During his confirmation hearings in the Senate, Holder agreed with Senator Patrick Leahy, Democrat of Vermont, that a technique used by U.S. interrogators under the Bush administration known as waterboarding is torture.[53]

Secretary of the Interior

The nomination of the Secretary of the Interior is presented to the full senate by the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. Ken Salazar assumed the office of Secretary of the Interior on January 21, 2009 after a unanimous voice vote on the floor of the full Senate. Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter appointed Denver Superintendent of Schools Michael Bennet to replace Salazar and to finish his term in the Senate, which expires in January 2011.

Salazar was nominated as Secretary of the Interior on December 19, 2008.[54] His appointment required a Saxbe fix by Congress.[55] On January 7, 2009, Congress approved a bill, S.J.Res. 3, and President Bush signed it into law, providing such a fix by reducing the Secretary of Interior's salary to the level it was prior to the time Salazar took office in January 2009.

The Senate confirmed Salazar's nomination by voice vote on January 20, 2009, shortly after the swearing in of President Obama.[56] As Secretary of the Interior, Salazar is in charge of the National Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, the United States Geological Survey, and other federal agencies overseen by the Interior Department.

Salazar is one of two Hispanics currently in the Cabinet, along with Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis of California. (There were three, but on January 4, 2008, Democratic New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson withdrew his name from the appointment of Secretary of Commerce). Salazar is the second Hispanic Interior Secretary after Manuel Lujan, Jr., who held the post from 1989 to 1993 under President George H. W. Bush.

Several prominent environmentalist groups are wary of Salazar, noting his strong ties with the coal and mining industries. Kieran Suckling, executive director of Center for Biological Diversity, which tracks endangered species and habitat issues states "He [Ken Salazar] is a right-of-center Democrat who often favors industry and big agriculture in battles over global warming, fuel efficiency and endangered species."[57]

The nomination was praised, however, by Gene Karpinski, President of the League of Conservation Voters. Upon the nomination, Karpinski said, "Throughout his career, Senator Salazar has campaigned on a pledge of support for 'our land, our water, our people.' With a perfect 100% score on the 2008 LCV Scorecard, he has lived up to that pledge. As a westerner, Senator Salazar has hands on experience with land and water issues, and will restore the Department of the Interior's role as the steward of America's public resources. We look forward to working with him to protect the health of America's land, water, and people in the coming years."[58]

Although Senate Republicans were expected to raise questions concerning Salazar's stances on oil shale development and drilling in environmentally sensitive areas,[59] Salazar was one of several Obama Cabinet appointees confirmed in the Senate by voice vote on January 20, 2009, shortly after Obama's inauguration. Salazar became the 50th Secretary of the Interior succeeding Dirk Kempthorne, who praised Salazar's appointment.[60]

On January 23, 2009, Salazar has stated that he is considering reopening the Statue of Liberty's crown to tourists. The crown has been closed to the public since the September 11, 2001 attacks. "I hope we can find a way," Salazar said in a statement. "It would proclaim to the world—both figuratively and literally—that the path to the light of liberty is open to all."[61]

Secretary of Agriculture

Vilsack conducts a press conference shortly after being nominated as Secretary of Agriculture, December 2008.

The nomination of the Secretary of Agriculture is brought to the full Senate by the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee. Tom Vilsack assumed the office of Secretary of Agriculture on January 21, 2009 after a unanimous voice vote of the whole Senate.

On December 17, 2008, then-President-elect Barack Obama announced his choice of Vilsack as the nominee to be the next Secretary of Agriculture.[62] Vilsack has governed a farm state (Iowa) as did the previous two Secretaries of Agriculture, Senator Mike Johanns (2005–2007) and Ed Schafer (2007–2009). Reaction to Vilsack's nomination from agricultural groups was largely positive and included endorsements from the Corn Refiners Association, the National Grain and Feed Association, the National Farmers Union, the American Farm Bureau Federation, and the Environmental Defense Fund.[63] Opposition to the nomination came those who believed Vilsack has a preference for large industrial farms and genetically modified crops;[64] as Iowa state governor, he originated the seed pre-emption bill in 2005, effectively blocking local communities from regulating where genetically engineered crops would be grown; additionally, Vilsack was the founder and former chair of the Governor's Biotechnology Partnership, and was named Governor of the Year by the Biotechnology Industry Organization, an industry lobbying group.[65] The Senate confirmed Vilsack's nomination for the position by unanimous consent on January 20, 2009.[66]

Secretary of Commerce

Commerce Secretary, former Washington Governor Gary Locke with U.S. President Barack Obama and U.S. Vice-President Joe Biden

The nomination of the Secretary of Commerce is brought to the full Senate by the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.

Bill Richardson was nominated for the position of Secretary of Commerce on December 3, 2008.[67] Nevertheless, due to federal investigation into some of his political donors, he withdrew himself from the nomination on January 4, 2009.[67]

On February 3, 2009, President Obama nominated New Hampshire Senator Judd Gregg, a Republican. The nomination initially drew criticism, as it would likely give the Democrats in the Senate a super-majority, assuming Al Franken would be seated from Minnesota (as he eventually was) and the two independents regularly voted with the Democrats.[68] Republican Senator Gregg would have been replaced by someone chosen by the Governor, Democrat John Lynch.

Initially, Senator Mitch McConnell announced that he would prevent an attempt to achieve a super majority by the President. After talks, President Obama as well as Senator Gregg assured that it would not be used as an attempt to change the makeup of the Senate.[69]

On February 12, Senator Gregg announced that he had withdrawn from nomination, citing his fundamental disagreement with the Obama administration on "issues such as the stimulus package and the Census."[70]

Former Washington Governor Gary Locke was designated as the third Commerce nominee, multiple media outlets reported on February 23, 2009. An official announcement was made at a press conference with Locke and President Obama.[71] After confirmation on March 24, Locke became the first Chinese American Secretary of Commerce, and the third Asian American in Obama's cabinet, joining Energy Secretary Steven Chu and Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki, the most of any administration in United States history.

In May 2011, Obama appointed Locke as the new U.S. ambassador to China and nominated John Bryson as the next Secretary of Commerce.[72] Citing Bryson's environmental views, U.S. Sen. James Inhofe (R-Oklahoma) put a hold on his nomination in July.[73]

Secretary of Labor

Solis speaks at the announcement of her being chosen as the new Secretary of Labor; President-elect Barack Obama looks on, as does announced-for-U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk.

The Secretary of Labor is confirmed through the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee

Hilda Solis assumed office as Secretary of Labor on February 24, 2009 when she was confirmed by the Senate by a vote of 80–17, although her confirmation hearings had been stalled due to Republican concerns over her support of the Employee Free Choice Act and her desire to reverse the Bush Administration's policies to the H-2A Guest Worker Act[74] and tax problems with her husband.[75] On February 11, 2009, Solis's nomination passed the committee phase.[76]

On December 18, 2008, sources close to the Obama transition team identified Solis as the President-elect's choice for U.S. Secretary of Labor, the last cabinet position yet to be filled.[77][78]

The selection earned praise from the AFL-CIO and other labor organizations, but it brought dismay from business groups[79] and the Center for Union Facts.[78] The official announcement was made by Obama on December 19.[80] Her appointment required a Saxbe fix.[55] due to her confirmation, Solis's successor will be chosen in a special election in California's 32nd congressional district; she declined to endorse any particular replacement candidate.[81]

Solis's confirmation hearings were held on January 9, 2009, before the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee.[82] Committee chair Ted Kennedy repeatedly praised her, while despite some prodding from Republican members, Solis declined to discuss specific policy issues including the Employee Free Choice Act.[82] Several days later, Senate Republicans said they might try to put a procedural hold on her nomination, out of frustration with her unwillingness to answer questions during the hearings.[83]

Committee Republican Mike Enzi also pressed her on whether her unpaid but high-level positions at American Rights at Work constituted a prohibited lobbying activity; she said she had done no lobbying and was in violation of no rules of conduct.[84] Solis did acknowledge that she had failed to report those positions on her annual House financial disclosure forms at the time, which the White House said was an unintentional oversight.[84] After more time passed with no motion on her nomination, Obama appointed veteran Labor Department official Edward C. Hugler as Acting Secretary.[85]

The prolonged process was seen as foreshadowing continued battles between the Obama administration and Republicans over labor issues.[85] Solis's confirmation process was then set to for a committee vote on February 5, but was postponed again after news that Solis' husband Sam Sayyad had just paid $6,400 in outstanding state and local tax liens for his auto repair business going back to 1993.[75][86] Sayyad was sole proprietor of the business, filed a separate tax return from Solis, and intended to contest the lien as they were for business taxes he thought he had already paid.[75][87][88]

The White House said Solis should not be penalized for any mistakes that her husband may have made.[75] The revelations came in the wake of several other Obama nominations troubled or derailed due to tax issues.[75] Committee Republicans subsequently indicated they would not hold Solis to blame for the taxes situation, but were still concerned about her ties to American Rights at Work.[87] On February 11, 2009, the committee finally supported her nomination by voice vote with two dissensions.[89]

Secretary of Health and Human Services

Kathleen Sebelius speaks after her nomination to be HHS Secretary

The nomination of the Secretary of Health and Human Services is brought to the full Senate by the Senate Finance Committee, though the nominee also historically meets with the United States Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.

Tom Daschle was the nominee for the Secretary of Health and Human Services.

Daschle was paid $220,000 in speaking fees to Healthcare providers, and was paid $16 million dollars as an advisor to Healthcare lobbying groups in the time between his departure from the US Senate and his nomination.[90]

Daschle pulled his name from nomination on February 3, 2009.[91]

On March 2, 2009, President Barack Obama introduced Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius as his choice to fill the office of Secretary of Health and Human Services. Sebelius was confirmed by the United States Senate on April 28, 2009 amid the swine flu health crisis.

Secretary of Housing and Urban Development

The nomination of the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development is brought to the full Senate by the United States Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs

Shaun Donovan was confirmed as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development on January 27, 2009.

Secretary of Transportation

The nomination of the Secretary of Transportation is brought to the full Senate by the United States Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation.

LaHood Being Sworn In As Secretary of Transportation

On December 19, 2008, then-President-elect Barack Obama announced that he would nominate Ray LaHood to be the next Transportation Secretary.

President Obama said of LaHood "Few understand our infrastructure challenge better than the outstanding public servant that I’m asking to lead the Department of Transportation."[92]

LaHood's nomination has been viewed with alarm among those concerned with climate change and suburban sprawl.[93][94][95][96] His resume on transport matters is seen as thin by many critics. He did not serve on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee at the time his selection was announced, although he had in the past. As a member of the House Appropriations Committee he did not work on transportation funding.[97]

While picking LaHood drew praise for its bipartisan symbolism there was also a sense that LaHood’s lack of expertise would diminish the department’s role in 2009 major policy debates and leave him as more of a ceremonial figure. James Oberstar, the Democratic Congressman who chairs the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee is expected to hold more influence and will likely play a stronger leading role. Oberstar praised LaHood’s “temperament” and “managerial talent,” but when asked to cite an issue LaHood championed during his time on the Transportation Committee in the 1990s, Oberstar seemingly drew a blank. “I can’t point to any specific legislation that he authored,” he said. “He was a team player all the way through.” Oberstar said LaHood would play a supporting role on tough policy calls.[98]

Former Republican Congressman Ray LaHood was confirmed as Secretary of Transportation on January 23, 2009.[99]

Secretary of Energy

The nomination of the Secretary of Energy is brought to the full US Senate by the Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

Steven Chu was unanimously confirmed by the U.S. Senate on January 20, 2009.[100] On January 21, 2009, Chu was sworn in as Secretary of Energy in the Barack Obama administration. Chu is the first person appointed to the Cabinet after having won a Nobel Prize. He is also the second Chinese American to be a member of the Cabinet after Elaine Chao.[101]

Secretary of Education

Arne Duncan testifying to the US Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.

The nomination of the Secretary of Education is brought to the full Senate through the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. Arne Duncan was confirmed as Secretary of Education on January 21, 2009.

President Obama nominated Arne Duncan on December 16, 2008 to be his Secretary of Education. In a prepared statement Obama praised Duncan's skills stating "For Arne, school reform isn’t just a theory in a book – it’s the cause of his life. And the results aren’t just about test scores or statistics, but about whether our children are developing the skills they need to compete with any worker in the world for any job." [102]

Duncan received broad bipartisan support during his confirmation hearing in front of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee on January 13, 2009. Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) said of Duncan, "there is no question that schools across America can benefit from the same kind of fresh thinking that (he) brought to Chicago public schools."[103]

Secretary of Veterans Affairs

The nomination of the Secretary of Veterans Affairs is brought to the full Senate by the United States Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs.

Eric Shinseki assumed the office of Secretary of Veterans Affairs on January 20, 2009.

Secretary of Homeland Security

The nomination of the Secretary of Homeland Security is brought to the United States Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.

Janet Napolitano assumed the office of Secretary of Homeland Security on January 21, 2009.

On November 5, 2008, Napolitano was named to the advisory board of the Obama-Biden Transition Project.[104] On December 1, 2008, Barack Obama introduced Napolitano as his nominee for United States Secretary of Homeland Security.[38][105] On January 20, 2009, Napolitano was confirmed, becoming the first woman appointed Secretary in the relatively new department. Secretary of State Jan Brewer became the governor of Arizona, as the state does not have a lieutenant governor.

Confirmation roll call votes

The below is a list of confirmations that were approved through the Senate by a Recorded vote.

State Senator Party
Jan. 21
Hillary Clinton official Secretary of State portrait crop.jpg

Jan. 26
Timothy Geithner official portrait.jpg

Feb. 2
Eric Holder official portrait.jpg

Feb. 24
Hilda Solis official DOL portrait.jpg

March 18
Ron Kirk official portrait.jpg

April 28
Kathleen Sebelius official portrait.jpg

Hawaii Akaka, DanielDaniel Akaka D Yea Yea Yea Yea Yea Yea
Tennessee Alexander, LamarLamar Alexander R Yea Nay Yea Yea Yea Nay
Wyoming Barrasso, JohnJohn Barrasso R Yea Nay Nay Yea Yea Nay
Montana Baucus, MaxMax Baucus D Yea Yea Yea Yea Yea Yea
Indiana Bayh, EvanEvan Bayh D Yea Yea Yea Yea Yea Yea
Alaska Begich, MarkMark Begich D Yea Yea Not Voting Yea Yea Yea
Colorado Bennet, MichaelMichael Bennet D Yea Yea Yea Yea Yea Yea
Utah Bennett, RobertRobert Bennett R Yea Nay Yea Yea Yea Nay
New Mexico Bingaman, JeffJeff Bingaman D Yea Yea Yea Yea Yea Yea
Missouri Bond, KitKit Bond R Yea Not Voting Yea Nay Nay Yea
California Boxer, BarbaraBarbara Boxer D Yea Yea Yea Yea Yea Yea
Ohio Brown, SherrodSherrod Brown D Yea Not Voting Yea Yea Yea Yea
Kansas Brownback, SamSam Brownback R Yea Nay Nay Yea Yea Yea
Kentucky Bunning, JimJim Bunning R Yea Nay Nay Nay Nay Nay
North Carolina Burr, RichardRichard Burr R Yea Nay Nay Nay Yea Nay
Illinois Burris, RolandRoland Burris D Yea Yea Yea Yea Yea Yea
West Virginia Byrd, RobertRobert Byrd D Yea Nay Yea Yea Nay Yea
Washington Cantwell, MariaMaria Cantwell D Yea Yea Yea Yea Yea Yea
Maryland Cardin, BenBen Cardin D Yea Yea Yea Yea Yea Yea
Delaware Carper, TomTom Carper D Yea Yea Yea Yea Yea Yea
Pennsylvania Casey, BobBob Casey D Yea Yea Yea Yea Yea Yea
Georgia Chambliss, SaxbySaxby Chambliss R Not Voting Nay Yea Yea Yea Nay
Oklahoma Coburn, TomTom Coburn R Yea Nay Nay Nay Yea Nay|
Mississippi Cochran, ThadThad Cochran R Yea Nay Nay Yea Yea Nay
Maine Collins, SusanSusan Collins R Yea Nay Yea Yea Yea Yea
North Dakota Conrad, KentKent Conrad D Yea Yea Yea Yea Yea Yea
Tennessee Corker, BobBob Corker R Yea Yea Yea Yea Yea Nay
Texas Cornyn, JohnJohn Cornyn R Yea Yea Nay Nay Yea Nay
Idaho Crapo, MikeMike Crapo R Yea Yea Nay Nay Yea Nay
South Carolina DeMint, JimJim DeMint R Nay Nay Nay Nay Yea Nay
Connecticut Dodd, ChrisChris Dodd D Yea Yea Yea Yea Yea Yea
North Dakota Dorgan, ByronByron Dorgan D Yea Yea Yea Yea Yea Yea
Illinois Durbin, DickDick Durbin D Yea Yea Yea Yea Not Voting Yea
Nevada Ensign, JohnJohn Ensign R Yea Yea Nay Nay Yea Nay
Wyoming Enzi, MikeMike Enzi R Yea Nay Nay Yea Yea Nay
Wisconsin Feingold, RussRuss Feingold D Yea Nay Yea Yea Yea Yea
California Feinstein, DianneDianne Feinstein D Yea Yea Yea Yea Yea Yea
Minnesota Franken, AlAl Franken D
New York Gillibrand, KristenKristen Gillibrand D Yea Yea Yea Yea
South Carolina Graham, LindseyLindsey Graham R Yea Yea Yea Yea Yea Nay
Iowa Grassley, ChuckChuck Grassley R Yea Nay Yea Yea Yea Nay
New Hampshire Gregg, JuddJudd Gregg R Yea Yea Yea Yea Yea Yea
North Carolina Hagan, KayKay Hagan D Yea Yea Yea Yea Yea Yea
Iowa Harkin, TomTom Harkin D Yea Nay Yea Not Voting Yea Yea
Utah Hatch, OrrinOrrin Hatch R Yea Yea Yea Yea Yea Nay
Texas Hutchison, Kay BaileyKay Bailey Hutchison R Yea Nay Nay Yea Yea Nay
Oklahoma Inhofe, JimJim Inhofe R Yea Nay Nay Nay Yea Nay
Hawaii Inouye, DanielDaniel Inouye D Yea Yea Yea Yea Yea Yea
Georgia Isakson, JohnnyJohnny Isakson R Yea Nay Yea Yea Nay Nay
Nebraska Johanns, MikeMike Johanns R Yea Nay Nay Yea Yea Nay
South Dakota Johnson, TimTim Johnson D Yea Yea Yea Yea Yea Yea
Delaware Kaufman, TedTed Kaufman D Yea Yea Yea Yea Yea Yea
Massachusetts Kennedy, TedTed Kennedy D Not Voting Not Voting Not Voting Not Voting Not Voting Not Voting
Massachusetts Kerry, JohnJohn Kerry D Yea Yea Yea Yea Yea Yea
Minnesota Klobuchar, AmyAmy Klobuchar D Yea Yea Yea Yea Yea Yea
Wisconsin Kohl, HerbHerb Kohl D Yea Yea Yea Yea Yea Yea
Arizona Kyl, JonJon Kyl R Yea Nay Yea Nay Yea Nay
Louisiana Landrieu, MaryMary Landrieu D Yea Yea Yea Yea Yea Yea
New Jersey Lautenberg, FrankFrank Lautenberg D Yea Yea Yea Yea Yea Yea
Vermont Leahy, PatrickPatrick Leahy D Yea Yea Yea Yea Yea Yea
Michigan Levin, CarlCarl Levin D Yea Yea Yea Yea Yea Yea
Connecticut Lieberman, JoeJoe Lieberman Ind. D Yea Yea Yea Yea Yea Yea
Arkansas Lincoln, BlancheBlanche Lincoln D Yea Yea Yea Yea Yea Yea
Indiana Lugar, RichardRichard Lugar R Yea Nay Yea Yea Yea Yea
Florida Martinez, MelMel Martinez R Yea Nay Not Voting Yea Yea Nay
Arizona McCain, JohnJohn McCain R Yea Nay Yea Yea Yea Nay
Missouri McCaskill, ClaireClaire McCaskill D Yea Yea Yea Yea Yea Yea
Kentucky McConnell, MitchMitch McConnell R Yea Nay Nay Yea Yea Nay
New Jersey Menendez, BobBob Menendez D Yea Yea Yea Yea Yea Yea
Oregon Merkley, JeffJeff Merkley D Yea Yea Yea Yea Yea Yea
Maryland Mikulski, BarbaraBarbara Mikulski D Yea Yea Yea Yea Yea Yea
Alaska Murkowski, LisaLisa Murkowski R Yea Nay Yea Yea Yea Nay
Washington Murray, PattyPatty Murray D Yea Yea Yea Yea Yea Yea
Florida Nelson, BillBill Nelson D Yea Yea Yea Yea Yea Yea
Nebraska Nelson, BenBen Nelson D Yea Yea Yea Yea Yea Yea
Arkansas Pryor, MarkMark Pryor D Yea Yea Yea Yea Yea Yea
Rhode Island Reed, JackJack Reed D Yea Yea Yea Yea Yea Yea
Nevada Reid, HarryHarry Reid D Yea Yea Yea Yea Yea Yea
Idaho Risch, JimJim Risch R Yea Nay Nay Nay Yea Nay
Kansas Roberts, PatPat Roberts R Yea Nay Nay Nay Yea Yea
West Virginia Rockefeller, JayJay Rockefeller D Yea Yea Yea Yea Yea Not Voting
Vermont Sanders, BernieBernie Sanders Ind. Yea Nay Yea Yea Nay Yea
New York Schumer, ChuckChuck Schumer D Yea Yea Yea Yea Yea Yea
Alabama Sessions, JeffJeff Sessions R Yea Nay Yea Nay Yea Not Voting
New Hampshire Shaheen, JeanneJeanne Shaheen D Yea Yea Yea Yea Yea Yea
Alabama Shelby, RichardRichard Shelby R Yea Yea Nay Nay Yea Nay
Maine Snowe, OlympiaOlympia Snowe R Yea Yea Yea Yea Yea Yea
Pennsylvania Specter, ArlenArlen Specter R→D Yea Nay Yea Yea Yea Yea
Michigan Stabenow, DebbieDebbie Stabenow D Yea Yea Yea Yea Yea Yea
Montana Tester, JonJon Tester D Yea Yea Yea Yea Yea
South Dakota Thune, JohnJohn Thune R Yea Nay Nay Nay Yea Nay
Colorado Udall, MarkMark Udall D Yea Yea Yea Yea Yea
New Mexico Udall, TomTom Udall D Yea Yea Yea Yea Yea Yea
Louisiana Vitter, DavidDavid Vitter R Nay Nay Nay Nay Yea Nay
Ohio Voinovich, GeorgeGeorge Voinovich R Yea Yea Yea Yea Yea Yea
Virginia Warner, MarkMark Warner D Yea Yea Yea Yea Yea Yea
Virginia Webb, JimJim Webb D Yea Yea Yea Yea Yea Yea
Rhode Island Whitehouse, SheldonSheldon Whitehouse D Yea Yea Yea Yea Yea Yea
Mississippi Wicker, RogerRoger Wicker R Yea Nay Nay Nay Yea Nay
Oregon Wyden, RonRon Wyden D Yea Not Voting Yea Yea Yea Yea
  vote by party D

Notes: All dates are in 2009. For later votes, see Obama confirmations, 2010.
Att'y-Gen. = Attorney-General of the United States; Trade = U.S. Trade Representative;
Health = Secretary of Health and Human Services; Sup. Ct = Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court
D = Democratic ; R = Republican ; Ind. = independent ; Ind. D = independent Democratic ;
R→D = moved from Republican to Democratic caucus on April 29-30, 2009 ;
— = seat vacant at the time of this vote.
Sources: United States Senate; The Washington Post


President Obama has included members of his cabinet that are not traditionally considered members of the Cabinet.

Vice President

The Vice President is an elected rather than an appointed position, and therefore does not require confirmation by the Senate.

then-Vice President-elect Joe Biden with then-Vice President Dick Cheney at Number One Observatory Circle, November 13, 2008
From left: Vice President Joe Biden, President Obama, Budget Director Peter Orszag and Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel in the oval office, January 2009

Since shortly following Biden's withdrawal from the presidential race, Obama had been privately telling Biden that he was interested in finding an important place for him in a possible Obama administration.[106] In a June 22, 2008, interview on NBC's Meet the Press, Biden confirmed that, although he was not actively seeking a spot on the ticket, he would accept the vice presidential nomination if offered.[107] In early August, Obama and Biden met in secret to discuss a possible vice-presidential relationship.[106] On August 22, 2008, Barack Obama announced that Biden would be his running mate.[108][109] The New York Times reported that the strategy behind the choice reflected a desire to fill out the ticket with someone who has foreign policy and national security experience—and not to help the ticket win a swing state or to emphasize Obama's "change" message.[110] Other observers pointed out Biden's appeal to middle-class and blue-collar voters, as well as his willingness to aggressively challenge Republican nominee John McCain in a way that Obama seemed uncomfortable doing at times.[111] In accepting Obama's offer, Biden ruled out to him the possibility of running for president again in 2016.[106]

On November 4, 2008, Obama was elected President and Biden Vice President of the United States.[112] The Obama-Biden ticket won 365 electoral college votes to McCain-Palin's 173,[113] and had a 53–46 percent edge in the nationwide popular vote.[114] Biden became the 47th Vice President of the United States on January 20, 2009, when he was inaugurated alongside President Barack Obama. He succeeded Dick Cheney. Biden is the first United States Vice President from Delaware[115] and the first Roman Catholic to attain that office.[116] Biden's oath of office was administered by Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens.[117] As Biden headed to Delaware's Return Day tradition following the November 2008 election, and the transition process to an Obama administration began, Biden said he was in daily meetings with Obama and that McCain was still his friend.[118] The U.S. Secret Service codename given to Biden is "Celtic", referencing his Irish roots.[119]

Biden chose veteran Democratic lawyer and aide Ron Klain to be his vice-presidential chief of staff,[120] and Time Washington bureau chief Jay Carney to be his director of communications.[121] Biden intended to eliminate some of the explicit roles assumed by the vice presidency of Cheney.[122] But otherwise, Biden said he would not model his vice presidency on any of the ones before him, but instead would seek to provide advice and counsel on every critical decision Obama would make.[123] Biden said he had been closely involved in all the cabinet appointments that were made during the transition.[123] Biden was also named to head the new White House Task Force on Working Families, an initiative aimed at improving the economic well-being of the middle class.[124]

Chief of Staff

Barack Obama and Rahm Emanuel in the Oval Office

On November 6, 2008, Rahm Emanuel accepted the Cabinet-level position of White House Chief of Staff under Barack Obama. He resigned his congressional seat effective January 2, 2009.[125] A special primary to fill his vacated congressional seat was held on March 3, 2009, and the special general election will be held on April 7.[126][127] Chicago newspapers reported that one candidate for that seat said at a forum that Emanuel had told him he may be interested in running for the seat again in the future.[128]

Some Republican leaders criticized Rahm Emanuel's appointment because they believed it went against Obama's promises to make politics less divisive, given Emanuel's reputation as a partisan Democrat. Republican Lindsey Graham disagreed, saying: "This is a wise choice by President-elect Obama. He's tough but fair – honest, direct and candid."[129]

Ira Forman, executive director of the National Jewish Democratic Council, said that the choice indicates that Obama will not listen to the wrong people regarding the U.S.–Israel relationship. Some commentators opined that Emanuel would be good for the Israeli–Palestinian peace process because if Israeli leaders make excuses for not dismantling settlements, Emanuel will be tough and pressure the Israelis to comply.[130]

Some Palestinians and Arabs have expressed dismay at Obama’s appointment of Emanuel.[131] Ali Abunimah of the Electronic Intifada said that Obama’s appointment of Emanuel sent the signal he would not be taking “more balanced, more objective, more realistic advice that could change the course from the disastrous Palestine-Israel policies of the Bush and Clinton administrations."[132] Emanuel said that Obama did not need his influence to "orientate his policy toward Israel".[133]

Since January 13, 2011, William M. Daley has been White House Chief of Staff, when interim Pete Rouse became Counselor to the President.

Director of the Office of the Budget

On November 25, 2008, President-elect Barack Obama announced that Peter R. Orszag would be his nominee for director of the Office of Management and Budget, the arm of the White House responsible for crafting the federal budget and overseeing the effectiveness of federal programs.[134][135] At 40, he is the youngest member of the Obama Cabinet, as the president upgraded the Director of OMB to cabinet-level priority.

Ambassador to the United Nations

On November 5, 2008, Susan Rice was named to the advisory board of the Obama-Biden Transition Project.[136] On December 1, 2008, she was nominated by President-elect Obama to be the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations,[38][43] a position which he also upgraded to cabinet level.[137] Rice is the second youngest[137] and the first African American woman US Representative to the UN.[138] Dr. Rice has announced she will have both a transition team in place in New York and in Washington, DC at the State Department to be headed by Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency

On December 15, 2008, President-Elect Barack Obama officially designated Lisa P. Jackson as the nominee for Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.[139] She was confirmed through unanimous consent of the U.S. Senate on January 23, 2009.[140] Jackson is the first African American to serve as EPA Administrator, along with being the fourth woman and second New Jerseyan to hold the position.[141]

Trade Representative

Although there was speculation that Ron Kirk would be appointed Secretary of Transportation by President Obama, he was given the position of Trade Representative.[142] As a supporter of NAFTA, his selection has drawn concern from advocates of fair trade policies.[143]

Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers

On November 24, 2008, President Barack Obama designated Christina Romer as Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers upon the start of his administration.[144][145]

After her nomination and before the Obama administration took office, Romer was tasked with co-authoring the administration's plan to recover from the 2008 recession. With economist Jared Bernstein, Romer co-authored Obama's plan for economic recovery.[146]

In a video presentation,[147] she discussed details of the jobs' creation package that the Obama administration submitted to Congress.

Formerly Cabinet-level

Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy

On February 11, 2009, it was reported that Gil Kerlikowske had accepted an offer by President Barack Obama to become Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, succeeding John P. Walters.[148] On May 7, 2009, the Senate confirmed Kerlikowske's nomination by a vote of 91-1 (roll call vote number 187: Republican Sen. Tom Coburn, M.D., of Oklahoma dissenting, 7 Senators not voting and 1 vacancy).[149] However, prior to Kerlikowske's nomination, the position was downgraded from a Cabinet-level position to a non-Cabinet-level position.[150]


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