Q. 35: What Does the President’s Cabinet Do?

Photo of the White House
The Cabinet is tasked with advising the President on a range of issues.

To pass the US citizenship test, you will have to answer 10 of a possible 100 questions. The following question is from the USCIS test.

What does the President’s Cabinet do?

Answer:

Advises the President.

The following is a full explanation of the USCIS question:

Cabinet Members Are the Presidents’ Expert Advisors

While the president makes all final decisions, they rely on the expert advice of a Cabinet. The Cabinet includes:

  • The vice president.
  • The heads of various departments (such as the Department of Defense or Department of Education)
  • The heads of other agencies.


The president appoints Cabinet members, with the Senate voting to confirm them.
 

The Cabinet does not vote as the Senate, House of Representatives, or Supreme Court does. Since the president has the final say on all executive decisions, there is no need for Cabinet votes. The president can also dismiss any Cabinet member without a Senate vote. 

The Cabinet is there to assist the president in making decisions on a wide range of complex issues. The number of problems the country faces is so vast that it would be impossible to find a president with expertise in every area.

Therefore, they need the heads of the Department of Agriculture, Energy, Homeland Security Department, etc., to offer advice. 

Cabinet Members Are Not Powerless

Though the president makes all final decisions in the executive branch, and no one in the Cabinet can overrule those decisions, Cabinet members still have power. For example, the Secretary of Defense has more authority over the military than anyone other than the president.

While members of the executive branch do not have authority over the president, as the Supreme Court sometimes does, they do have much power over employees in the departments that they head and can greatly impact the lives of the population at large through their departments. 

Cabinet-Level Positions

In addition to the vice president and the twelve department heads, there are other people that the president may promote to the Cabinet. There are 25 members of the Cabinet in total.

Executive Office of the President

The president’s Executive Office includes minor officials that are not part of the Cabinet but still advise the president. People in the Executive Office carry out tasks that the White House requires. 

Members of the Executive Office tend to be much more politically neutral than Cabinet-level officials. 

When Was the President’s Cabinet Created?

There has been a president’s Cabinet for as long as the office of president has been established. George Washington formed the first president’s Cabinet. Cabinet members often hold opposing views – exemplified by the conflict between Alexander Hamilton and James Madison over the national bank under Washington. 

When discussing the issue of the Cabinet at the Constitutional Convention in 1787, delegates debated whether it was needed and who should be on it. They decided to grant the president the power to appoint a presidential Cabinet. From George Washington to President Biden, presidents have appointed their Cabinet secretaries. 

Kamala Harris, Vice President

Kamala Harris was the District Attorney of San Francisco (2003), the Attorney General of California (2010), and a Senator (2017). As a Senator, she worked to protect the environment, reform bail, provide rent assistance for the poor, and improve maternal health care.

As vice president, she talks with the public and has many round table meetings with activists, business leaders, and others. She communicates Biden’s message to the public. Vice presidents lead commissions, travel to other countries to make deals, and are first in the presidential line of succession. 

Lloyd Austin, Secretary of Defense

As the Secretary of Defense, Lloyd Austin controls the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Space Force. Although a civilian, he is at the top of the chain of military command after the president himself. He is the president’s chief advisor on all military matters. 

Antony Blinken, Secretary of State

Antony Blinken has been in the White House for quite some time, having served under the Clinton, Bush, and Obama administrations. Before becoming the Secretary of State under President Joe Biden, he was the Deputy Secretary of State under President Barack Obama.

Blinken is the country’s chief diplomat. He has helped shape American Foreign Policy for decades, making sure that it protects and benefits the country. He now plays a more significant role than ever before as the Secretary of State. 

Janet Yellen, Secretary of the Treasury

Janet Yellen formerly led the Federal Reserve, Treasury Department, and White House Council of Economic Advisors. Yellen served under President Clinton and President Obama. She leads the Treasury Department, which helps strengthen the economy, create job opportunities, and manage the government’s finances. 

Merrick Garland, Attorney General

Merrick Garland leads the Justice Department, employing more than 115,000 people across the country and dozens of other countries. The Justice Department enforces federal law and protects people’s civil rights. 

Before his current position, Merrick Garland was a Judge for the United States Court of Appeals. Prior to that, he was the Chair of the Executive Committee of the Judicial Conference of the United States. 

Denis McDonough, Secretary of Veterans Affairs

Denis Richard McDonough ensures the well-being of veterans, whether they left the army decades ago or only recently. He advises Joe Biden on anything to do with veterans affairs. He was previously the White House Chief of Staff under Barrack Obama. 

Alejandro Mayorkas, Secretary of Homeland Security

After being a lawyer and law enforcement official for 30 years, Mayorkas became Joe Biden’s Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security in 2021. Mayorkas is responsible for making the United States more resistant to disasters, defending against cyberattacks, supporting national and economic security, and enforcing immigration laws. 

Some Other Current Cabinet-Level Officials?

Currently, there are nine other officials who are part of the Cabinet without being the heads of the usual fifteen departments. Some of the most important current Cabinet-level officials are Linda Thomas-Greenfield (Ambassador to the United Nations), Cecilia Rouse (Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers), and Isabel Guzman (Administrator of the Small Business Administration).

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