When a new president gets elected, he is required to choose a number of people to run the various executive departments and to advise him in his decisions as the chief executive. In light of our last election, President Trump appointed a number of individuals to cabinet positions, and many of the appointed officials were criticized by a large chunk of the country. This discourse brings up several questions. How powerful are these appointed officials in the long run? Does anyone have that much to worry about when it comes to a cabinet appointment that they disapprove of?

To start with, there are 15 major executive departments led by cabinet members. These departments include the Department of Defense, Homeland Security, Health and Human Services, Education, and Interior. These departments all oversee the executive role in the various duties that they are named after. If one is a cabinet member and a head of one of these departments, they are called a “Secretary of Defense,” “Secretary of Education,” or the one most heard about, “Secretary of State.” These people stick around for an election cycle, so four years, and are replaced by a new or incumbent president. They often share political views with their president and are part of the president’s inner circle before being appointed. After all, President John F. Kennedy appointed his own brother to be Attorney General, or head of the Department of Justice [1].

The president can’t just appoint cabinet members at his own will, either. His appointees need to be approved by the Senate. This shows that perhaps cabinet members aren’t a trivial business.

Cabinet members oversee entire executive departments, which is a considerable amount of power. However, this can be tricky for departments that have to deal with state and local governments. For example, Betsy Devos, the current Secretary of Education, mostly will talk about President Trump’s education agenda, but she won’t be able to do much about it, as education is mainly a state’s responsibility [2]. However, being a bully pulpit is no joke, and some state governments may give in to her encouragement to take funding away from public schools. On the flip side, the Secretary of Defense is able to advise the president as Commander in Chief, and thus can hold a lot of influence over the president’s militaristic decisions. The Secretary of State negotiates with other nations on foreign affairs and aids the president in his diplomatic decisions [3]. Basically, in cases where the executive branch holds a lot of power, cabinet members also hold a lot of power because they directly affect the actions of the president and the goals of their departments.

So, are the cabinet members worth worrying about? It depends on what one wants for the country. There’s no denying that they will have an impact on the direction that the nation is headed.

by Melissa Watson Managing Editor

Sources
https://www.jfklibrary.org/Exhibits/Permanent-Exhibits/Attorney-Generals-Office.aspx
http://www.businessinsider.com/what-does-secretary-of-education-do-betsy-devos-2017-2
https://www.state.gov/secretary/115194.htm

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