According to Article II of the constitution, the function of the Cabinet of the United States is to act as an advisory council for the president. There are 15 executive departments in the president’s cabinet and 15 offices- the Secretaries of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Education, Energy, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, Housing and Urban Development, Interior, Labor, State, Transportation, Treasury, and Veterans Affairs as well as the Attorney General. As the new head of the Executive Branch, President Trump has the power to appoint individuals to these offices. If approved by the senate, these people will go on to influence policy and budget decisions that will affect the entire nation.
The process can be confusing, so here’s a rudimentary explanation of the steps it takes to become a member of the president’s Cabinet:
A nominee is nominated by president/president-elect
Senate hearings before relevant Senate committee
Committee votes — if a majority of the committee votes for the nominee, it goes to the Senate floor for a vote by the full body. The Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, can bring a nominee to the floor for a full Senate vote even if they do not get the approval of the relevant committee.
Goes to the floor vote in the Senate
Among Donald Trump’s appointments are several former Goldman Sachs employees, as well as several generals. Critics have said that such appointments violate the doctrine of civilian control of the military and favor donors to the Republican party, rather than qualified candidates. Sen. Claire McCaskill criticized Trump’s cabinet stating, “I call it the three ‘G’ Cabinet: Goldman, generals and gazillionaires.”
Most of Trump’s nominees are expected to be confirmed. This is, in part, due to a procedural change implemented by the Democrats when they were in the majority in the Senate in 2013. The party eliminated a rule that required 60 votes to move a nominee to a vote by the full Senate.
Here are the individuals who Trump has appointed to his cabinet:
Secretary of State-The Secretary of State is the chief foreign affairs adviser to the president and carries out the U.S. foreign policy agenda. Rex Tillerson has no experience in government, but did head an international company, Exxon Mobil, for decades. He advocates for a better relationship between the U.S. and Russia, a country he has had business ties with in the past.
Homeland Security Advisor-Tom Bossert previously served in the George W. Bush administration as deputy homeland security adviser. Bossert got attention for an op-ed he wrote in 2015 in which he defended the invasion of Iraq and criticized President Obama’s approach to the use of force.
Secretary of Agriculture-Sonny Perdue is the former governor of Georgia. Perdue is a former veterinarian and Air Force member, and he also ran an agriculture business that specialized in hauling grain. He served on Trump’s agricultural advisory committee during the election.
Secretary of Commerce (not yet confirmed)– Wilbur Ross is a 79-year-old billionaire. He is the chairman and chief strategy officer, as well as the founder, of the private equity firm WL Ross and Co. He made a name for himself by restructuring failing companies and businesses, including one of Trump’s casinos in 1990. The Department of Commerce states that its mission is “to foster, promote, and develop the foreign and domestic commerce.”
Secretary of Defense– James Mattis is a retired Marine Corps general. He served as the commander of U.S. Central Command and oversaw the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. In order to serve in this post, Mattis had to receive a congressional waiver from a federal law that states that a member of the military must wait seven years after leaving the armed forces before serving as secretary of defense.
Secretary of Education-Betsy DeVos (not yet confirmed) has been a critic of public schools and an advocate of putting taxpayer dollars to charter schools and voucher programs. During her senate confirmation hearing, she stated that she did not know the differences in evaluation standards for standardized test scores. She has been a longtime Republican donor. No Democratic senator will support DeVos’s nomination, and if one more Republican senator opposes she will not receive the nomination.
Secretary of Energy– Rick Perry (not yet confirmed) was the former governor of Texas. He has previously stated that he would like to abolish the Department of Energy. The Department of Energy is in charge of both regulating the energy industry and managing the country’s nuclear weapons. Trump once tweeted that Perry “should be forced to take an IQ test before being allowed to enter the GOP debate.” Perry has also appeared on “Dancing with the Stars.”
Secretary of Interior– Ryan Zinke (not yet confirmed) is a veteran of the U.S. Navy SEALS. Zinke is currently on the House Armed Services Committee and the Committee on Natural Resources. The Department of the Interior oversees such agencies as the Bureau of Land Management, the United States Geological Survey and the National Park Service.
Attorney General– Jeff Sessions is a Republican senator from Alabama. Sessions advocates for a more stringent immigration policy and an increase in deportations of undocumented immigrants. He was denied an appointment to a federal judgeship in 1986 after lawyers testified he had used racially charged language.
Secretary of Homeland Security– John F. Kelly is a retired Marine Corps general and oversaw Guantanamo Bay prison. The Secretary of Homeland Security is responsible for protecting the nation from terrorism and cyberattacks, recovery from natural disasters and border protection.
Secretary of Housing and Urban Development– Ben Carson (not confirmed) is a retired neurosurgeon. Carson has no government experience, but says that as the son of a single mother, he was prepared for the secretary role. This department oversees policy on home ownership, housing assistance, fair housing practices and addresses homelessness and housing development.
Secretary of Labor– Andrew Puzder (not confirmed) is the chief executive officer of CKE Restaurants Inc., which is the parent company of several fast-food restaurants including Hardee’s. In the past, he has been opposed movements to increase the minimum wage and regulating overtime pay. The Department of Labor oversees the welfare, working conditions and opportunities for workers, job seekers and retirees.
Secretary of Transportation-Elaine Chao served as secretary of labor under George W. Bush and the deputy secretary of transportation under George H.W. Bush. She also served as a member of his Asian Pacific American Advisory Committee. She is married to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Secretary of Treasury-As Secretary of Treasury, Steven Mnuchin will oversee economic and financial systems. Mnuchin has no government experience, but did work at Goldman Sachs for 17 years and headed a California bank that foreclosed on an estimated 36,000 homes.
Secretary of Veterans Affairs-David Shulkin (not confirmed) is a physician and was appointed as the undersecretary for health in the Department of Veterans Affairs by President Obama. This office is in charge of providing benefits and health care to veterans of the U.S. military.
Administrator of Environmental Protection Agency-Scott Pruitt has served as attorney general of Oklahoma since 2010. He is an advocate of the oil and gas industries and has actively opposed the environmental regulations that the Obama administration put in place, saying such work was government overreach. This department oversees federal regulations, distributes grants and conducts studies concerning the environment.
Health and Human Services– Congressman Tom Price serves as chairman of the House Budget Committee. He has stated that he plans to repeal the Affordable Care Act and privatize medicare.
Head of CIA– Kan. Congressman Mike Pompeo has worked in the aerospace and oil industries and was a part of the investigation into the allegations surrounding the 2012 Benghazi attacks.
Ambassador to UN– Nikki Haley, the first female and minority governor of South Carolina, doesn’t have much diplomatic experience. She called the suggestions that Trump made during the campaign for a travel ban on Muslims “an embarrassment to the Republican Party.”
Supreme Court Nominee– Neil Gorsuch is the youngest supreme court nominee in decades, which is worth noting since judges hold their seats for life. He has clerked for two Supreme Court justices and also served as a clerk on the second most important appeals court in the country, in Washington D.C. In this position, he ruled in favor of Hobby Lobby in its infamous contraception case before it went to the Supreme Court. Several Senate Democrats, including Elizabeth Warren, have stated that they will filibuster the nominee. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s decided to block any consideration of President Obama’s nominee to the Supreme Court one year ago, following Antonin Scalia’s death.
While many members of Trump’s administration must face confirmation hearings, there are some officials who do not require confirmation. Here are the most prominent:
Chief Strategist– Steve Bannon is the former executive chairman of Breitbart, the right-wing news website. Bannon served as Trump’s campaign advisor for the final months of the campaign. He was briefly in the U.S. Navy and worked at Goldman Sachs in the 1980s. As chief strategist, Bannon will act as a close advisor to the president and hold a permanent spot on the national security council.
Chief of Staff- The chief of staff acts as an immediate advisor to the president and is considered the highest member of the president’s cabinet. Reince Priebus previously served as the Republican National Committee chairman, was on the RNC general counsel and acted as chairman of the Republican Party of Wisconsin.