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With Eric Holder’s announcement Thursday that he’s stepping down as attorney general, only two original Cabinet members remain for President Obama’s final White House years.
Just Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack have been with Obama since the very beginning in their original roles. Shaun Donovan has also been around the full six years, but he switched positions from secretary of housing and urban development to director of Office of Management and Budget.
An aside, we had been hearing that Vilsack had one foot out the door — but his wife, Christie, may be enjoying her job here at the Agency for International Development. Asked Thursday on a conference call by CQ-Roll Call editor Philip Brasher about his plans, Vilsack said, “I’m keeping the job I got because I’m not sure I can get another one.”
Here at the Loop, we’ve been on Holder Watch for ages, predicting as recently as last week that he wouldn’t join the two AGs who stayed a full two terms. In July 2013, we even held a Loop contest asking readers to guess when he’d go.
He apparently decided to leave over Labor Day, which may explain why Justice Department officials were a bit testy when our colleague Sari Horwitz asked him about his plans last week.
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Holder’s been the public face of several contentious issues, but it’s not uncommon for Cabinet officials to seek other employment after a few years on the job. In fact Holder is the fourth-longest serving attorney general ever — third-longest if he stays into December.
In the Bush administration, only Labor Secretary Elaine Chao stayed for both terms.
President Bill Clinton retained four: Attorney General Janet Reno (after a slightly delayed start); Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt; Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala; and Education Secretary Richard Riley were there from 1993 to 2001.
While many Republicans are cheering Holder’s decision (a GOP congressman put out a statement saying simply, “Thank You”), at least one organization is very disappointed that the Obama cabinet will now have a void … in facial hair (though Labor Secretary Tom Perez rocks some ‘stache and goatee scruff).