What are two Cabinet-level positions?
- Secretary of Agriculture
- Secretary of Commerce
- Secretary of Defense
- Secretary of Education
- Secretary of Energy
- Secretary of Health and Human Services
- Secretary of Homeland Security
- Secretary of Housing and Urban Development
- Secretary of the Interior
- Secretary of Labor
- Secretary of State
- Secretary of Transportation
- Secretary of the Treasury
- Secretary of Veterans Affairs
- Attorney General
- Vice President
What Does the President’s Cabinet Do?
While the president has the final say in all executive decisions in the United States, members of the Cabinet are still influential.
For instance, if the president is undecided on whether to veto a controversial law about agriculture, he can always seek the counsel of the Department of Agriculture first.
This makes the secretary of agriculture a key player even if the president can sign bills or issue executive orders without them.
The different departments in the president’s Cabinet execute plans collectively agreed upon or as the president instructs them.
As the president cannot be an expert on all aspects of government, he can lean on his Cabinet secretaries for advice on areas where his knowledge may be limited.
Cabinet Members Cannot Overrule the President.
The constitution established the president’s executive power. Article II of the United States Constitution gives the president control over the executive branch of the government but not the other two branches (the legislative and judicial branches).
This was a contentious issue when the constitution was being framed, as some argued that such executive authority would leave the United States with a president akin to a monarch.
However, others asserted that it was necessary for good decision-making in the nation’s interests.
And with a robust system of checks and balances in place via the legislative and judicial branches, other executives would not need the power to overrule the president.
Founding Fathers such as Alexander Hamilton favored a strong single executive.
How Are Cabinet Members Selected?
Most Cabinet members are selected by the president, not elected by anyone else in the federal government.
Like Supreme Court justices, they must be confirmed by the Senate but are not truly elected because no one can “run for secretary of defense.”
The vice president is elected, however, as the Electoral College casts separate votes for president and vice president.
What Does the Vice President Do?
Historically, the vice president had a minor role, with the most important duty being that of stepping into the president’s shoes if the Commander in Chief could not carry out their duties.
However, the vice president has an expanded role today – often leading commissions and traveling to foreign countries as a representative of the United States government.
Vice presidents have always led the Senate and broken ties when the Senate votes.
What Does the Attorney General Do?
The attorney general is the president’s principal advisor on legal matters. Attorney generals are in charge of the Department of Justice, which enforces laws in the United States. It is one of the most important positions in the Executive Office.
The attorney general oversees the prison system and represents the United States in court.
When the government brings a legal case against a person or business, the attorney general prosecutes the case.
They also defend the government in the Supreme Court if a case against the government is taken.
Other responsibilities include examining possible violations of federal laws and supervising attorneys and marshals.
The Secretary of Defense
The secretary of defense is another highly important and respected Cabinet position in the executive branch.
They oversee the armed forces and advise the president on military matters. They liaise with land, sea, and air force representatives and communicate requisite information and intelligence to the president.
They are the head of a vast department with over 1.4 million members. The position can only be held by a civilian.
No serving member of the military, or former member who resigned from their military position less than a year previously, is allowed to become the defense secretary.
The Secretary of Education
The secretary of education leads a department responsible for what students of the nation learn, how they are taught, and how they are tested.
The secretary ensures that the quality of education is high at the primary, high school, and college levels.
An effective secretary of education can persuade states to adopt policies they are not legally obliged to.
The Secretary of Energy
Initially, the department of energy was responsible for developing and testing nuclear weapons. Today, the department’s remit includes managing, developing, and maintaining energy sources for peaceful purposes.
The energy secretary oversees a massive department that deals with nuclear weapons, clean energy technologies, science research, and much more.
The Secretary of Agriculture
The secretary of agriculture is the head of the Department of Agriculture. When the president considers a policy affecting farmers, ranchers, and customers, they seek the secretary of agriculture’s counsel first.
The department of agriculture inspects food for quality, aids farmers with subsidies, and deals with forestry.
The Secretary of State
The secretary of state is a foreign affairs expert who advises the president on the United States foreign policy.
The secretary of state controls the Foreign Service and the State Department, which carry out America’s foreign policies.
They negotiate treaties, improve relations between the United States and other countries, and send delegates to international conferences.
The Secretary of Transportation
The transportation secretary deals with building and repairing highways, safety standards, emissions standards, air travel, ships, and railroads. They fund both federal and state transportation projects.
The Secretary of the Treasury
The treasury department collects tax money to pay federal government bills and expenses. They are in charge of printing money, minting coins, and enforcing tax laws.
The secretary of the treasury directs the IRS (Internal Revenue Service) and the rest of the Department of the Treasury, in addition to advising the president.
The Secretary of Veterans Affairs
The secretary of veterans affairs is the head of the Department of Veterans Affairs, which oversees war memorials, veterans’ cemeteries, and veterans’ benefits.
If there is currently no department secretary, the deputy secretary assumes the role until a new secretary is selected by the president and confirmed by the Senate.
The Secretary of Health and Human Services
The secretary of health and human services deals with human conditions in the United States. They manage a department that controls assistance to needy families, welfare, health/disease, and income security programs.
They also manage the Food and Drug Administration and ten other separate agencies.
The Secretary of Homeland Security
While the Department of Defense manages the army, navy, marines, national guard, and air force, the Department of Homeland Security controls the coast guard.
The secretary of homeland security advises the president more about threats from within the country than foreign threats.
Under the secretary’s leadership, the Department of Homeland Security defends the country by:
- Protecting the security of ports and borders
- Promoting cybersecurity to defend against cyberattacks
- Protecting critical infrastructure
- Protecting the president and other high-profile people
- Responding to natural disasters
The Secretary of Housing and Urban Development
The secretary of housing and urban development leads a department that aims to increase homeownership, prevent discrimination in housing, and support community development.
They aim to make housing more affordable.
The Secretary of the Interior
The secretary of the interior oversees federal land and natural resources, with 75% of all federal public land falling under the department’s purview.
The secretary administers Native American, Native Alaskan, and Native Hawaiian programs.
The Secretary of Labor
The secretary of labor recommends new laws dealing with unions and the workplace and enforcing existing laws.
Their legislation is intended to resolve disputes between businesses and the workforce.
Other Cabinet Positions
There are several other positions in the president’s Cabinet. For example, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency is a Cabinet member.
Another Cabinet-level position is the United States Trade Representative.
There are 25 members of the Cabinet in total.
Two cabinet-level positions are Secretary of State and Secretary of Defense.