Cabinet of the United States
Current: Cabinet of Donald Trump
Great Seal of the United States (obverse).svg
Donald Trump Cabinet meeting 2017-03-13 04.jpg
A meeting of the Trump cabinet (2017)
Cabinet overview
FormedMarch 4, 1789
(231 years ago)
 (1789-03-04)
TypeAdvisory body
HeadquartersCabinet Room, White House, Washington, D.C.
Employees23 members:
Cabinet executives
Key document
Websitewww.whitehouse.gov

The Cabinet of the United States is part of the executive branch of the federal government of the United States. The members of the Cabinet are the vice president and the secretary of state and other heads of the federal executive departments, all of whom — if eligible — are in the presidential line of succession.

The United States Constitution does not explicitly establish a Cabinet. The Cabinet's role, inferred from the language of the Opinion Clause (Article II, Section 2, Clause 1) of the Constitution, is to serve as an advisory body to the president of the United States. Additionally, the Twenty-fifth Amendment authorizes the vice president, together with a majority of certain members of the Cabinet, to declare the president "unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office".

Members of the Cabinet (except for the vice president) are appointed by the President, subject to confirmation by the Senate; once confirmed, they serve at the pleasure of the president, who can dismiss them at any time without the approval of the Senate, as affirmed by the Supreme Court in Myers v. United States (1926). All federal public officials, including Cabinet members, are also subject to impeachment by the House of Representatives and trial in the Senate for "treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors" (Article II, Section 4).

The president can also unilaterally designate senior advisers from the Executive Office of the President and heads of other federal agencies as members of the Cabinet, although this is a symbolic status marker and does not, apart from attending Cabinet meetings, confer any additional powers.

History

James K. Polk and his Cabinet in 1845: the first Cabinet to be photographed.
The Nixon Cabinet, 1970
The first Obama Cabinet (September 2009).
A map showing the historical makeup of the Cabinet of the United States by year.

The tradition of the Cabinet arose out of the debates at the 1787 Constitutional Convention regarding whether the president would exercise executive authority solely or collaboratively with a cabinet of ministers or a privy council. As a result of the debates, the Constitution (Article II, Section 1, Clause 1) vests "all executive power" in the president singly, and authorizes—but does not compel—the president (Article II, Section 2, Clause 1) to "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".[1][2] The Constitution does not specify what the executive departments will be, how many there will be, or what their duties will be.

George Washington, the first U.S. president, organized his principal officers into a Cabinet, and it has been part of the executive branch structure ever since. Washington's Cabinet consisted of five members: himself, Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson, Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton, Secretary of War Henry Knox and Attorney General Edmund Randolph. Vice President John Adams was not included in Washington's Cabinet because the position was initially regarded as a legislative officer (president of the Senate).[3] It was not until the 20th century that vice presidents were regularly included as members of the Cabinet and came to be regarded primarily as a member of the executive branch.

Presidents have used Cabinet meetings of selected principal officers but to widely differing extents and for different purposes. Secretary of State William H. Seward and then-professor Woodrow Wilson advocated the use of a parliamentary-style Cabinet government. But President Abraham Lincoln rebuffed Seward, and Woodrow Wilson would have none of it in his administration. In recent administrations, Cabinets have grown to include key White House staff in addition to department and various agency heads. President Ronald Reagan formed seven sub-cabinet councils to review many policy issues, and subsequent Presidents have followed that practice.[2]

Federal law

In 3 U.S.C. § 302 with regard to delegation of authority by the president, it is provided that "nothing herein shall be deemed to require express authorization in any case in which such an official would be presumed in law to have acted by authority or direction of the President." This pertains directly to the heads of the executive departments as each of their offices is created and specified by statutory law (hence the presumption) and thus gives them the authority to act for the president within their areas of responsibility without any specific delegation.

Under the 1967 Federal Anti-Nepotism statute, federal officials are prohibited from appointing their immediate family members to certain governmental positions, including those in the Cabinet.[4]

Under the Federal Vacancies Reform Act of 1998, an administration may appoint acting heads of department from employees of the relevant department. These may be existing high-level career employees, from political appointees of the outgoing administration (for new administrations), or sometimes lower-level appointees of the administration.[5]

Confirmation process

The heads of the executive departments and all other federal agency heads are nominated by the president and then presented to the Senate for confirmation or rejection by a simple majority (although before the use of the "nuclear option" during the 113th US Congress, they could have been blocked by filibuster, requiring cloture to be invoked by ​35 supermajority to further consideration). If approved, they receive their commission scroll, are sworn in and then begin their duties.

An elected vice president does not require Senate confirmation, nor does the White House chief of staff, which is an appointed staff position of the Executive Office of the President.

Office Senate Confirmation Review Committee
Secretary of State Foreign Relations Committee
Secretary of the Treasury Finance Committee
Secretary of Defense Armed Services Committee
Attorney General Judiciary Committee
Secretary of the Interior Energy and Natural Resources Committee
Secretary of Agriculture Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Committee
Secretary of Commerce Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee
Secretary of Labor Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee
Secretary of Health and Human Services Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee (consult)
Finance Committee (official)
Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee
Secretary of Transportation Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee
Secretary of Energy Energy and Natural Resources Committee
Secretary of Education Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee
Secretary of Veterans Affairs Veterans Affairs Committee
Secretary of Homeland Security Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee
Trade Representative Finance Committee
Director of National Intelligence Select Committee on Intelligence
Office of Management and Budget Budget Committee
Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee
Director of the Central Intelligence Agency Select Committee on Intelligence
Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency Environment and Public Works Committee
Administrator of the Small Business Administration Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee

Salary

The heads of the executive departments and most other senior federal officers at cabinet or sub-cabinet level receive their salary under a fixed five-level pay plan known as the Executive Schedule, which is codified in Title 5 of the United States Code. Twenty-one positions, including the heads of the executive departments and others, receiving Level I pay are listed in 5 U.S.C. § 5312, and those forty-six positions on Level II pay (including the number two positions of the executive departments) are listed in 5 U.S.C. § 5313. As of January 2016, the Level I annual pay was set at $206,000.[6]

The annual salary of the vice president is $235,300.[6] The salary level was set by the Government Salary Reform Act of 1989, which provides an automatic cost of living adjustment for federal employees. The vice president receives the same pension as other members of Congress based on his ex officio position as the president of the Senate.[7]

Current Cabinet and Cabinet-rank officials

The individuals listed below were nominated by President Donald Trump to form his Cabinet and were confirmed by the United States Senate on the date noted, or are serving as acting department heads by his request pending the confirmation of his nominees. For a full list of people nominated for Cabinet positions, see Formation of Donald Trump's Cabinet.

Vice President and the heads of the executive departments

The Cabinet includes the vice president and the heads of 15 executive departments, listed here according to their order of succession to the presidency. These 15 positions are the core "cabinet member" seats, as distinct from other Cabinet-level seats for other various top level White House staffers and heads of other government agencies, none of whom are in the presidential line of succession and not all of whom are Officers of the United States.[8] Note that the speaker of the House and the president pro tempore of the Senate follow the vice president and precede the secretary of state in the order of succession, but both are in the legislative branch and are not part of the Cabinet.

Cabinet
Office
(Constituting instrument)
Incumbent Took office
Seal of the Vice President of the United States.svg
Vice President
(Constitution, Art. II, Sec. I)
Mike Pence official Vice Presidential portrait (cropped).jpg
Mike Pence
January 20, 2017
Seal of the United States Secretary of State.svg
Secretary of State
(22 U.S.C. § 2651a)
Mike Pompeo official photo (cropped).jpg
Mike Pompeo
April 26, 2018
Seal of the United States Department of the Treasury.svg
Secretary of the Treasury
(31 U.S.C. § 301)
Steven Mnuchin official photo (cropped).jpg
Steven Mnuchin
February 13, 2017
United States Department of Defense Seal.svg
Secretary of Defense
(10 U.S.C. § 113)
Dr. Mark T. Esper – Secretary of Defense (cropped).jpg
Mark Esper
July 23, 2019
Seal of the United States Department of Justice.svg
Attorney General
(28 U.S.C. § 503)
William Barr (cropped).jpg
William Barr
February 14, 2019
Seal of the United States Department of the Interior.svg
Secretary of the Interior
(43 U.S.C. § 1451)
David Bernhardt official photo (cropped).jpg
David Bernhardt
January 2, 2019[n 1]
Seal of the United States Department of Agriculture.svg
Secretary of Agriculture
(7 U.S.C. § 2202)
Sonny Perdue headshot.jpg
Sonny Perdue
April 25, 2017
Seal of the United States Department of Commerce.svg
Secretary of Commerce
(15 U.S.C. § 1501)
Wilbur Ross headshot.jpg
Wilbur Ross
February 28, 2017
Seal of the United States Department of Labor.svg
Secretary of Labor
(29 U.S.C. § 551)
Eugene Scalia (cropped).jpg
Eugene Scalia
September 30, 2019
Seal of the United States Department of Health and Human Services.svg
Secretary of Health and Human Services
(Reorganization Plan No. 1 of 1953,
67 Stat. 631 and 42 U.S.C. § 3501)
Alex Azar official portrait (cropped).jpg
Alex Azar
January 29, 2018
Seal of the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development.svg
Secretary of Housing and Urban Development
(42 U.S.C. § 3532)
Ben Carson headshot.jpg
Ben Carson
March 2, 2017
Seal of the United States Department of Transportation.svg
Secretary of Transportation
(49 U.S.C. § 102)
Elaine Chao official portrait 2 (cropped).jpg
Elaine Chao
January 31, 2017
Seal of the United States Department of Energy.svg
Secretary of Energy
(42 U.S.C. § 7131)
Dan Brouillette official photo (cropped).jpg
Dan Brouillette
December 2, 2019
Seal of the United States Department of Education.svg
Secretary of Education
(20 U.S.C. § 3411)
Betsy DeVos official portrait (cropped).jpg
Betsy DeVos
February 7, 2017
Seal of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.svg
Secretary of Veterans Affairs
(38 U.S.C. § 303)
Robert Wilkie official portrait (cropped).jpg
Robert Wilkie
July 30, 2018
Seal of the United States Department of Homeland Security.svg
Secretary of Homeland Security
(6 U.S.C. § 112)
Chad Wolf official portrait 2017 (cropped).jpg
Chad Wolf
November 13, 2019
Acting

Cabinet-level officials

The following officials hold positions that are considered to be Cabinet-level positions:

Cabinet-level Officials
Office Incumbent Term began

White House Chief of Staff
(Pub.L. 76–19, 53 Stat. 561, enacted April 3, 1939,
Executive Order 8248, Executive Order 10452,
Executive Order 12608)

Mark Meadows
March 31, 2020

Trade Representative
(19 U.S.C. § 2171)

Robert Lighthizer
May 15, 2017

Director of National Intelligence
(50 U.S.C. § 3023)
John Ratcliffe official photo.jpg
John Ratcliffe
May 26, 2020

Director of the Office of Management and Budget
(31 U.S.C. § 502, Executive Order 11541,
Executive Order 11609, Executive Order 11717)

Russell Vought
January 2, 2019

Acting


Director of the Central Intelligence Agency[9]
(50 U.S.C. § 3036)

Gina Haspel
April 26, 2018[n 2]

Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency
(5 U.S.C. § 906, Executive Order 11735)

Andrew Wheeler
July 9, 2018[n 3]

Administrator of the Small Business Administration
(15 U.S.C. § 633)

Jovita Carranza
January 16, 2020
  1. ^ Bernhardt served as Acting Secretary from January 2, 2019 until April 11, 2019.
  2. ^ Haspel served as Acting Director from April 26, 2018 until May 21, 2018.
  3. ^ Wheeler served as Acting Administrator from July 9, 2018 until February 28, 2019.

Former executive and Cabinet-level departments