A New Cabinet Is Built

The game has begun for the new administration of Democratic President Barack Obama—but not all of his team has yet made it onto the field. One of the key jobs of an incoming president is to assemble a cabinet, the group of heads of executive branch departments and other high-ranking advisers. A president’s nominees must be confirmed by a majority in the U.S. Senate before they assume their duties. Even when a president enjoys a large majority of the same political party to work with in the Senate, as Obama does, the confirmation process is by no means automatic. More than 10 days after his inauguration, however, President Obama’s cabinet is mostly in place.

Although the Constitution does not specifically describe what has become the presidential cabinet, the process of presidential nomination and Senate approval for high-level government officials is spelled out in Article II, Section 2. The approval, or confirmation, process begins with careful selection of nominees by the president, followed by hearings before Senate committees, and a vote before the full Senate. The process can sometimes be a political battleground as well as an opportunity for the public to get a rare peek into the more private aspects of the nominees’ lives—their tax returns, for example.

Among President Obama’s cabinet members are Hillary Clinton, his chief rival for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination, as secretary of state; Defense Secretary Robert Gates, a holdover from the Bush administration; and Eric Holder, the first African American attorney general in the nation’s history. Explore the links below to find out more about the confirmation process, presidential cabinets in American history, and the makeup of the Obama administration.

Related Links

  • The Cabinet: 100 Days
    Learn about the individuals selected to make up President Barack Obama’s cabinet. Track the progress of their nominations. (Source: CBS News)
  • Track Obama’s Cabinet Nominees
    This political journalism Web site tracks the precise status of the nominees: who has been named, what votes have been taken, when hearings are scheduled. (Source: Congressional Quarterly)
  • The U.S. President and the Cabinet: The Executive Branch
    Learn interesting facts and stories involving presidents and their cabinets in American history. (Source: Finding Dulcinea, Librarian of the Internet)
  • The Administration: The Cabinet
    This official Web site includes links to the Web sites of the 15 executive departments, with their secretaries (or “secretary-designates,” if not yet confirmed), as well as to other cabinet-level officers. (Source: www.whitehouse.gov)

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