United States Cabinet

United States Cabinet

The United States Cabinet (usually simplified as "the Cabinet") is composed of the most senior appointed officers of the executive branch of the federal government of the United States, and its existence dates back to the first American President (George Washington), who appointed a Cabinet of four people (Secretary of State, Thomas Jefferson; Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton; Secretary of War, Henry Knox; and Attorney General, Edmund Randolph) to advise and assist him in his duties. Cabinet officers are nominated by the President and then presented to the United States Senate for confirmation or rejection by a simple majority. If approved, they are sworn in and begin their duties. Aside from the Attorney General, and previously, the Postmaster General, they all receive the title "Secretary".

Constitutional and legal basis

Constitutional references

Article Two of the Constitution provides that the President can 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." The Constitution did not then establish the names (or list or limit the number) of Cabinet departments; those details were left to the Congress to determine.

Later, upon addition of the 25th Amendment to the Constitution, a provision was created allowing that the Vice President and "a majority of the principal officers" of the executive branch departments may transmit a notice (to the Speaker of the House and the Senate President Pro tempore) that the President is unfit for office. If the President contests this finding, the Congress is directed to settle the matter.

United States Cabinet nominees are chosen from a large pool of potential candidates. One of the few qualification restrictions is set out in Article One of the Constitution: "no person holding any office under the United States, shall be a member of either house during his continuance in office." Accordingly, a sitting member of the United States Congress must resign his or her seat before accepting a Cabinet appointment. Likewise, a governor appointed to a cabinet post must resign as governor.Fact|date=September 2008 This constitutional separation between the executive and the legislative branches is distinct from the British parliamentary cabinet system, where, in most cases, members of the Cabinet are required to be sitting members of the legislature.

The Cabinet in federal law

There is no explicit definition of the term "Cabinet" in either the United States Code or the Code of Federal Regulations. However, there are occasional references to "cabinet-level officers" or "secretaries", which when viewed in context appear to refer to the heads of the "executive departments" as listed in usc|5|101.

Under usc|5|3110 federal officials are prohibited from appointing family members to certain governmental posts, including seats on the Cabinet. Passed in 1967, the law is apparently a response to John F. Kennedy's appointment of Robert F. Kennedy to the post of Attorney General of the United States.


Recent decline in influence

Though the Cabinet is still an important organ of bureaucratic management, in recent years, the Cabinet has generally declined in relevance as a policy making body. Starting with President Franklin Roosevelt, the trend has been for Presidents to act through the Executive Office of the President or the National Security Council rather than through the Cabinet. This has created a situation in which non-Cabinet officials such as the White House Chief of Staff, the Director of the Office of Management and Budget, and the National Security Advisor are now as powerful as or more powerful than some Cabinet officials.

Traditionally, the Secretary of State, the Secretary of the Treasury, the Secretary of Defense, and the Attorney General are the most important members of Cabinet, and form an inner circle. In recent years, the Secretary of Homeland Security has risen to a level of significance that is arguably closer to the "big four" than to the other cabinet offices.

During a meeting of the President's Cabinet, members are seated according to the order of precedence, with higher ranking officers sitting closer to the center of the table. Hence, the President and Vice President sit directly across from each other at the middle of the oval shaped table. Then, the Secretaries of State and Defense are seated directly to the right and left, respectively, of the President and the Secretary of Treasury and the Attorney General sit to right and left, respectively, of the Vice President. This alternation according to rank continues, with Cabinet-rank members (those not heading executive departments; the Vice President excluded) sitting at the very ends, farthest away from the president and vice president.

Line of succession

The Cabinet is also important in the presidential line of succession, which determines an order in which Cabinet officers succeed to the office of the president following the death or resignation of the Vice President, Speaker of the House and the President pro tempore of the Senate. Because of this, it is common practice not to have the entire Cabinet in one location, even for ceremonial occasions like the State of the Union Address, where at least one Cabinet member does not attend. This person is the designated survivor, and they are held at a secure, undisclosed location, ready to take over if the President, Vice President, and the rest of the Cabinet are killed.

Current Cabinet

Former Cabinet positions

*The Secretary of State was briefly known as the Secretary of Foreign Affairs, but the position was renamed Secretary of State prior to being filled for the first time in March 1790.

*From 1789 to 1947, the duties of the Secretary of Defense were instead handled by Cabinet-level positions of the Secretary of War (1789–1947) and the Secretary of the Navy (1798–1947).

*From 1829 to 1971, the Post Office Department was a Cabinet-level executive agency and thus the Postmaster General was a Cabinet officer.

*From 1903 to 1913, the duties of the current Secretaries of Commerce and Labor were held by a single Secretary of Commerce and Labor.

*From 1953 to 1979, the duties of the Secretary of Education and the Secretary of Health and Human Services were united as the Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare.

*Under some administrations, the U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations was allowed to sit in for cabinet meetings.Fact|date=February 2008

Proposed Cabinet departments

*U.S. Department of Commerce and Industry (proposed by business interests in the 1880s)
*U.S. Department of Agriculture and Labor (proposed by members of U.S. Congress)
*U.S. Department of Public Welfare (proposed by President Warren Harding)
*U.S. Department of Natural Resources (proposed by former President Herbert Hoover, the Eisenhower administration, President Richard Nixon and the GOP national platform in 1976)
*U.S. Department of Peace (proposed by President Franklin Roosevelt and Congressman Dennis Kucinich)
*U.S. Department of Social Welfare (proposed by President Franklin Roosevelt)
*U.S. Department of Public Works (proposed by President Franklin Roosevelt)
*U.S. Department of Conservation (proposed by Interior Secretary Harold L. Ickes)
*U.S. Department of Urban Affairs (proposed by President John F. Kennedy)
*U.S. Department of Business and Labor (proposed by President Lyndon Johnson)
*U.S. Department of Human Resources (proposed by President Richard Nixon)
*U.S. Department of Community Development (proposed by President Richard Nixon)
*U.S. Department of Economic Development (proposed by President Richard Nixon)
*U.S. Department of Environmental Protection (proposed by Senator Arlen Specter)
*U.S. Department of International Trade (proposed by the Heritage Foundation)

Lists of Cabinets

"See: List of United States Cabinets"

ee also

* Kitchen Cabinet
* Black Cabinet
* List of US Cabinet Secretaries who have held multiple cabinet-level positions
* List of first women to hold U.S. Cabinet Secretaryships
* George W. Bush administration
* List of United States political appointments that crossed party lines



* 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).


* Grossman, Mark. "Encyclopedia of the United States Cabinet" (three volumes). Santa Barbara, California: ABC-CLIO, 2000. ISBN 0-87436-977-0. A history of the United States and Confederate States cabinets, their secretaries, and their departments.

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.

External links

* [http://www.whitehouse.gov/government/cabinet.html Official site of the President's Cabinet]
* [http://www.senate.gov/artandhistory/history/resources/pdf/StateUnionCabinet.pdf U.S. Senate's list of cabinet members who did not attend the State of the Union Address (since 1984)]

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