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Posted at 03:44 PM ET, 02/12/2013

Obama’s Cabinet: What’s the state of the union?


(Pete Souza/The White House)
We’re all but certain to hear tonight that the state of our union is strong. But what of the state of Cabinet nominations?

It seems a good time to take stock of where we stand.

Open positions

There are eight jobs for which which the incumbent has announced his or her departure, but the White House has yet to name a replacement.

Commerce secretary — One of the leading contenders to fill this open spot is Penny Pritzker, a businesswoman and Obama mega-bundler.

Environmental Protection Agency administrator — Gina McCarthy, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation, is all but a lock to replace Lisa Jackson.

Secretary of Labor — Since Hilda Solis announced that she would return to her native California, Tom Perez, assistant attorney general for civil rights, has emerged as a top candidate for the job. Ed Montgomery, dean of the Georgetown Public Policy Institute, is also thought to be in the mix.

Secretary of Energy —The slate of names circulating as Steven Chu's replacement includes former Colorado governor Bill Ritter and former North Dakota senator Byron Dorgan. Massachusetts Institute of Technology physicist Ernest Moniz is also one to watch.

U.S. Trade Representative — Among those said to be under consideration to helm the agency after Ron Kirk’s departure are Undersecretary of Commerce for International Trade Francisco Sánchez, and Fred Hochberg, president of the Import-Export bank.

Office of Management and Budget director — Jeff Zients, acting head of OMB, is a potential replacement for Kirk. Names mentioned to permanently helm the agency include Sylvia Mathews Burwell, head of the Wal-Mart Foundation.

Secretary of Transportation — Debbie Hersman, National Transportation Safety Board chair, is said to be on the short list to replace outgoing chief Ray LaHood.

Small Business Administrator — Karen Mills only announced on Monday that she planned to leave the administration, and a list of contenders for the job has yet to emerge.

Nominations pending

Secretary of Defense — Confirmation hasn’t been an easy ride for former senator Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.). Though his nomination is poised to clear committee and could get a full Senate vote as soon as this week, he’s faced tough questions about his position on Israel and has had to provide more information about his post-Senate career.

Secretary of Treasury — White House Chief of Staff Jack Lew’s ritual Hill grill begins this week.

CIA director — John Brennan is finishing up hearings, and indications are that a committee vote could happen as soon as this week.

Secretary of the Interior — President Obama named Sally Jewell, CEO of outdoor-gear company REI, to the post last week.

Pace: The second-term Obama administration has been a bit slow off the mark in moving nominees: So far, there’s been only one second-term secretary confirmed (Secretary of State John Kerry), which lags the clip set by both Presidents Bush and Clinton.

Some of the delay can be chalked up to pressing policy matters (see cliff, fiscal). And the Senate hasn’t exactly been moving at a lightning clip on Hagel or Brennan.

Diversity Tally: The White House has at least eight slots to fill, plenty of chances for Obama to live up to his promises, when he urged that people “wait until they’ve seen all my appointments ... before they rush to judgment.”

Women look to be a relatively strong presence on the second-term Cabinet, with Jewell in line to replace a male predecessor, and women as leading candidates for several jobs, including Commerce.

Hispanics, though, are at risk of losing ground, with the departure of the Cabinet’s two Hispanic members, Hilda Solis and Ken Salazar. There are strong contenders, though, who could restore such diversity, especially Tom Perez to be Solis’s replacement.

The departure of Steven Chu leaves only one Asian American (Veterans’ Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki), and two of the four black Cabinet members are leaving.

Confirmation prospects: Early signs are that this round of nominees could face particularly choppy waters in the Senate. While historically, no Cabinet nominee has ever been filibustered, this Senate seems particularly willing to at least murmur the F-word, as Republicans have on Hagel and one Democrat did on Brennan.

By  |  03:44 PM ET, 02/12/2013

Tags:  transition, washingtonintransition

 
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