February 5th (Washington, D.C.) – Who is in the President’s Cabinet? Amazingly, it is a question that has never been answered because the “Cabinet” is not an organization that was created by the Constitution or any law. The only relevant clause of the Constitution (Article 2 § Section 2 § Clause 1) says that the President may require the opinion of the “principal Officer in each of the executive Departments, upon any Subject relating to the Duties of their respective Offices....” President George Washington interpreted this to mean he could create a working committee that regularly advised him, and it has been a tradition maintained by every subsequent President since then.
Aside from that, the Constitution says that Congress is the one that determines what the “[E]xecutive Departments” even are and who runs them (Article 1 § Section 8 § Clause 18). With that power, Congress has created 15 Executive Departments and has given them a place in the Presidential line of succession. These 15 people, along with the Vice President, are considered the core of the Cabinet, although throughout history others have been elevated to it and sometimes removed.
Just two weeks after shocking the world with a set of ten Executive Orders, the newly installed President of the United States has been relatively quiet while getting the White House in order. However, at this Friday’s inaugural “Single Reporter Press Briefing”, the President decided to let everyone in on the plans for the administration:
Frankly, I can’t understand the Federal Government. It is so massive, so unwieldy, and makes no sense structurally. But where should we even begin to correct this? It seems too daunting a task, but I believe we can make suggestions to Congress for mass changes if we start at the top and work our way down from there.
And starting from the top, the President then took to a white board to propose an entirely novel setup for the Cabinet, all while doing another end run around Congress so that existing law could be wrought to the Administration’s purposes.
President Details Reasoning for Shuffling Entire Cabinet
During the interview, the President made it clear that while restricted from creating, merging, removing, and even renaming federal agencies and departments, it was well within the President’s purview to decide the makeup of the Cabinet and how information is filtered up to the Oval Office. This, the President argued, would allow the administration to create an internal structure where agency and department heads submit reports upwards to a select few that would represent key concerns through a wider lens instead of just special interests.
For instance, the President wants to merge the Department of Commerce and the Department of Labor into a single institution—and thus also merge the Secretary-level positions into a solitary job. Congress, though, requires both to exist. As such, the President has ordered the Secretary of Labor to report all findings and suggestions to the Secretary of Commerce, and then the latter would sit alone in the Cabinet and advise the President on the concerns of both departments. In the long run, the President intends to recommend an organizational structure that would align the Federal Government to this overall new Cabinet. However, as a type of “test run”, the President will be making as many moves as possible without involving Congress.
Congress has not technically allowed any President to have reorganizational capability since 1984 when it granted those abilities to Ronald Reagan. In reality, Congress made it impossible for Reagan to transmit anything to Congress for consideration, so it was more a sleight of hand than anything else. Therefore, it is Jimmy Carter who holds the distinction of being the last President to get any type of executive reorganization through Congress, which happened in 1977. However, that was before the Supreme Court ruled that a “Legislative Veto” was un-Constitutional, and therefore the updated version of the law that was created after this ruling and attempted by Reagan has still not been fully tested. Presidents Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, and Donald Trump all attempted in one way or another to have Congress grant them the authority to do some type of reorganization of the government for a limited period of time, but none were successful.
Considering their defeats, this President is taking a different approach. Instead of trying to get near unlimited authority to make modifications—something a divided Congress would certainly be hostile to yielding to an unaligned President—the chief executive intends to create the desired setup through whatever actions are deemed plausible within the law. Once the top-level Cabinet is set up the way the President desires it, then those people in turn will look through all other federal agencies and departments and determine which ones belong under their tutelage. Said the President:
Everyone’s first goal is to eliminate waste, inefficiency, redundancy, and bureaucracy. Each of my core advisors will bring recommendations to me on how to merge and/or eliminate agencies to make these reductions. Each person I have highlighted is an expert in their area and must provide that information so that I can take it to the members of Congress, who largely just don’t know nor understand what these executive areas do.
When asked if there were concerns within the administration about its antagonistic stance towards Congress, the President was defensive and said it was not meant to be insulting, but simply a reality of not having a grasp on the scope of the entirety of the federal establishment that they were essentially responsible for. Said the President:
How could they? They can’t be authorities in everything; that is why we hire and surround ourselves with professionals, specialists, and experts who can provide that insight.
That is not all the President has requested these advisors to look in to. Hitting the President’s ire in particular are political appointees who do not belong in an organization. As examples, the President listed appointing someone who was against public education within the current Department of Education (DOE), having an oil-industry lobbyist in charge of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), or even having a vegan holding the reins of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). In each of these situations, the President argued, the appointees have a direct conflict of interest with the overarching goal of these agencies as defined by Congress. Still, the President did not stop there, warning anyone who has prior connections to industry groups that while their time working for the Federal Government may be up, their time in a federal penitentiary may be just beginning:
If it is found that these people took even a stick of gum from a lobbyist or from someone in the groups they were supposed to have been regulating, I will make sure they are investigated and punished to the fullest extent of the law.
Without the forthcoming detailed analysis to narrow down who this may impact, hundreds of people—including current agency and sub-agency heads—may be at risk. It seems that the President is quite intent on cleaning house of political appointees, especially those who were put in place to support either of the major Political Parties’ perspectives and aspirations.
New Cabinet Consists of a Mix of Existing, Merged, New, and Removed Positions
So, what would this new Cabinet look like? Well, instead of the 26 positions that make up the cabinet today—including the aforementioned 15 department heads, the Vice President, and the President—instead, it would be streamlined to just 14 individuals.
For some, the move would be more lateral, where an existing Secretary or agency head would fit into the role. These include:
- The Attorney General becoming Freedom, Law, and Justice;
- Transportation becoming Interconnectivity; and
- State becoming Foreign Relations.
It should also be noted here that the current Cabinet position of Ambassador to the United Nations was listed as being under Foreign Relations. Nevertheless, since the President had previously orchestrated the untimely demise of the U.N. through earlier executive action, it seems highly unlikely this position will have any importance, anyway.
Beyond that, even in these lateral moves, new responsibilities are expected. For instance, Interconnectivity will not just be about highways, trains, and planes, but will include communication methods like phones and the internet, subjects seemingly a part of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Meanwhile, other “new divisions” were fairly straightforward mergers of overlapping priorities:
- Defense, Homeland Security, National Intelligence, and Veterans Affairs becoming Safety and Security under the Secretary of Defense;
- Treasury and The Council of Economic Advisors becoming Fiscal Management under the Secretary of the Treasury;
- Agriculture, Energy, The Environmental Protection Agency, and The Office of Science and Technology Policy becoming Science, Technology, and Environment under the Secretary of Agriculture;
- Commerce, Labor, The Trade Representative, and The Small Business Administration becoming Commerce and Labor under the Secretary of Commerce; and
- Health and Human Resources, Housing and Urban Development, and Education becoming People and Society under the Secretary of Health and Human Resources.
Here it should be highlighted that certain functions are expected to be moved around. As an example, the Census Bureau would be transferred out of Commerce and put into People and Society. However, because Congress would have to make this realignment, the change would only be on paper for the time being. Then, there would be positions that would need to be split up:
- Interior becoming Resource and Asset Management and Internal Relations, with the former focused on the property-related elements and the latter on things like Native Americans and dealing with States. To account for this extra position, the current Secretary of the Interior would take on Resource and Asset Management while the ranked subordinate Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs would be elevated to the Cabinet and be given the portfolio for Internal Relations. This latter selection would align with the President’s prior Executive Order on fully integrating all Native American tribes into United States society, a key priority for the administration.
Finally, the President intends to create a few new positions, but fill them with similarly situated deputy appointees who have been confirmed by Congress for their current roles. These include:
- The Director of the Office of Management and Budget will take control of Government Operations, which is charged with creating a “Shared Services Center” across the entire federal bureaucracy. This means any resources that can be used by multiple groups—like Human Resources, Information Technology, Finance, Material Acquisition, etcetera—should be taken from their individual departments and agencies and brought together under one roof. In order to get around the current Congress, the President has ordered each department and agency head to contribute to this new area from their existing allocations.
- The Librarian of Congress will be elevated to the Cabinet to act as the de facto head of Arts and Culture. While most of the listed duties already do fall under the Librarian, the President is asking for a much greater expansion of responsibilities, especially in areas that the United States currently has no agencies, such as with sports. As an example, among all nations, the United States is one of the few that does not support their Olympic athletes and makes them pay their own way. The President stated that this should change, so the Librarian will be the only one among the President’s new advisors asking for a whole slew of new funding and agencies to buoy the many parts of art, sports, and culture that have no representation in the government right now.
Noticeably absent from these lists was the White House Chief of Staff. When asked about this, the President shrugged and succinctly said:
I believe the Vice President and I can represent all of the needs of the Executive Branch without additional input.
To accomplish this, the President laid out specific roles and responsibilities that would be expected for the two top members of the Executive Branch. For the President it would be “strategy and vision, risk management, communications and marketing, press relations, and inter-branch affairs and exchanges.” With the Vice President the expectations were for “quality assurance, efficiency, accountability and ethics, safety checks and validations, and executive security.”
Executive Leadership and Congress Respond
Being that all of these newly named positions are not officially supported by Congress, the President cannot call the people who fill them “Secretaries”. Instead, the President has created a new unpaid title called “Superintendent”. With this, the current “Secretary of State” will also be called the “Superintendent of Foreign Relations”; the “Secretary of Agriculture” will also be “Superintendent of Science, Technology, and Environment”; and the “Librarian of Congress” will gain the title of “Superintendent of Arts and Culture”.
While the non-department heads do not have much ground to complain because they are at the caprice of the President whether they serve in the Cabinet or not, the Secretaries of Labor, Housing and Urban Development, Energy, Education, Veterans Affairs, and Homeland Security can only look at this as a demotion through no fault of their own. This is especially troublesome to the Secretaries of Labor and Housing and Urban Development as they are listed above of the Secretary of Transportation in the Presidential line of succession, yet the latter will still be in the Cabinet while they have been relegated to watching from the sidelines. When asked about these issues, the President said:
This is not a commentary or an indictment about the job performance of specific department or agency heads; this is specifically about making a comprehensible government.
Later, the Commander-in-Chief continued this train of thought, saying in part:
In order to even begin to understand what we should be doing, we need a setup that represents the real concerns of what this country is about. Now I will have voices at the table that make more sense. No offense to the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development and the Administrator of the Small Business Administration, but they are a small piece of the puzzle to address the greater questions of “People and Society” and “Commerce and Labor”, respectively.
Neither of the leaders mentioned nor any other person being pushed out or elevated to the Cabinet responded to a request for comment. Members of Congress have been equally quiet, but the Speaker of the House and the Majority Leader of the Senate put out a joint statement reminding the President that only Congress can change the makeup of the Executive Branch and the order of Presidential succession. When asked to respond, the Communications Director for the President said:
We agree, and will be submitting multiple plans to Congress detailing scenarios to reorganize the government based on the results of our initial inquiries.
The above piece is an excerpt from the speculative fiction novel 254 Days to Impeachment: The Future History of the First Independent President by J.P. Prag, available at booksellers worldwide.
Learn more about author J.P. Prag at www.jpprag.com.
254 Days to Impeachment is a work of mixed fiction and nonfiction elements. With the fiction elements, any names, characters, places, events, and incidents that bear any resemblance to reality is purely coincidental. For the nonfiction elements, no names have been changed, no characters invented, no events fabricated except for hypothetical situations.
About the Creator
J.P. Prag is the author of "Compendium of Humanity's End", "254 Days to Impeachment", "Always Divided, Never United", "New & Improved: The United States of America", and "In Defense Of...", and more! Learn more at www.jpprag.com.