Look for a relatively slow, rolling transition of the Obama cabinet over the next year or so.
There are lots of movable chairs Here’s what we’ve been hearing:
* Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton says she’s leaving soon as she can, if not on Inauguration Day, then not long after..
Possible replacements: The Democrats’ larger majority in the Senate likely enhanced Senate Foreign Relations Chairman John Kerry’s (D-Mass.) odds, since his departure — and a possible subsequent loss of that seat to now-defeated Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) — wouldn’t alter the vote as much. U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice’s star appears to have dimmed a bit following the uproar over Benghazi — though not in the Oval Office. She’s also a possible fit for National Security Advisor.
* Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner’s departure has sparked a frenzy of chatter about replacements, from White House chief of staff Jack Lew to former chief of staff Erskine Bowles and others. There’s been talk, however, that Obama would be much better served by looking for someone from the world of finance in this slot, someone like Suzanne Nora Johnson, former vice chairman of Goldman Sachs.
* Defense Secretary Leon Panetta looks to be leaving after the fiscal cliff gets sorted out and the budget is set, maybe sometime in the spring.
Those mentioned include deputy secretary Ashton Carter, who has broad expertise in budget matters. Michele A. Flournoy, former undersecretary of defense for policy, who’s politically closer to Obama and has been on the campaign trail of late, may have the edge — if she wants it.
* Attorney General Eric Holder is said to be on his way out. The only question is whether sooner (before summer) or later, towards the end of the year or maybe as late as 2014. .
* Department of Homeland Security chief Janet Napolitano is looking to replace Holder, but obviously that wouldn’t be for a while.
A number of cabinet members have indicated that they wouldn’t mind staying, if the president wants — that group includes Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan. Health and Human Service Secretary Kathleen Sibelius is said likely to stay on to implement Obamacare. We’re hearing Labor Secretary Hilda Solis likely will be staying. Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki is also likely to be on board.
Others, despite some pressure from household members to leave and earn an honest living, may stay on for a bit longer. That group includes Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood — an Obama favorite and the only Republican in the cabinet — and Interior Department Secretary Ken Salazar.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack had been on the “stay” list if his wife won her race for an Iowa House seat. But her defeat last night may make his tenure less long-term than thought.
Those said to be most likely to leave soon include Energy Secretary Steven Chu and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson. Former senator Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) or perhaps outgoing Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) might be on the list for Energy. (Though we’re hearing the latter is enjoying the pace in Santa Fe these days.) In academia, Ernie Moniz, MIT’s director of energy initiatives and an Obama energy adviser, might also be considered.
For EPA, Mary Nichols, chairman of the California Air Resources Board, was the runner-up last time, but it’s unclear if she’s available. Bob Perciasepe , currently number-two at EPA, could possibly be a contender.
Those looking for a huge, quick turnover may be disappointed. We recall that Labor Secretary Elaine Chao stayed for all of the Bush administration. (Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld would have stayed but for finding himself under a bus in 2006.)
In the Clinton administration, Attorney General Janet Reno stayed for the full two terms, as did HHS Secretary Donna Shalala, Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt and Education Secretary Richard Riley.