President Trump’s Cabinet: What you should know


Izzy Wiltse

President Trump’s Cabinet: What you should know

Isabel Wiltse

Since the days of George Washington, each president has had a Cabinet. Although the numbers of members and positions have changed since the first president, the Cabinet’s purpose has remained the same. It’s a group of the president’s most trusted advisers who guide the president in making better decisions for the United States.

The current presidential Cabinet has 16 positions: the Vice President and the heads of 15 executive departments: these are the Secretaries of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Education, Energy, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, Housing and Urban Development, Interior, Labor, State, Transportation, Treasury, Veterans Affairs and the Attorney General.

The confirmation of a cabinet nominee is very similar to passing a law through Congress. For starters, the current president chooses a nominee for a position. The person is then given a hearing date with the Senate Committee corresponding to the position they might hold. For example, the nominee for Secretary of Education would have a hearing with the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committees. After being approved by the committee, the nominee heads to a full Senate vote. If the nominee receives 51 confirmation votes, they are confirmed as a member of the Cabinet.

All photos courtesy  of Creative Commons. 

Vice President- Mike Pence  

Born: June 7, 1959 in Columbus, Indiana. 

Pence went to Indiana University McKinney School of Law. After graduating, he unsuccessfully ran for the House of Representatives and became a Conservative radio and TV talk show host in the ‘90s. In 2000, he won a seat in the House of Representatives. He became the Republican conference chairman before he was elected Governor of Indiana in 2012. While governor, he was responsible for the largest tax-cut in Indiana’s history. He moved funds toward improving infrastructure, and made the state’s first pre-K funding program. In March of 2015, he signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which protected businesses that did not want to not participate in same-sex marriages. In 2016, he signed a law that prohibited abortions of a fetus that had a disability.

Secretary of Agriculture-Sonny Perdue, confirmed

Born: December 20, 1946 in Perry, GA

Perdue was the first Republican governor in Georgia since reconstruction after the Civil War. He received a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine in 1971. He joined the Air Force but received a honorable discharge in 1974. He worked as a veterinarian until he ran for the Georgia Senate, as a Democratic. It wasn’t until 1998 that he switched his party affiliation. He was the Georgia Governor from 2003-2011. He is known for praying on the statehouse steps for rain during the 2007 drought in Georgia. Also during his term as governor, he proclaimed April 2010 as Confederate History Month, made April 26 Confederate Memorial Day and encouraged citizens to celebrate these two events. In addition, while Perdue was in office he gave power to local school systems to make decisions about education than the state, and Georgia moved up from last place on the list of the nation’s SAT scores.

Secretary of Commerce-Wilbur Ross, confirmed

Born: November 28 ,1937 in Weehawken, New Jersey.

Ross is an American investor and banker. He is known as the “King of Bankruptcy” due to his practice of investing in failing companies and creating a new companies out of the failing one. According to Forbes, he is worth $2.5 million and is #232 on the Forbes 400 as of 2016. He went to both Yale and Harvard. In 2010, he announced he was fine with higher taxes on the wealthy. He also supported Trump before his campaign even started. In the past, his company WL Ross & Co had to pay a $2.3 million fine for failing to properly disclose fees it charged. Like Sonny Perdue, he is a former Democrat. He served on the board of the US-Russia Investment Fund under President Bill Clinton.

Secretary of Defense-General James Mattis, confirmed

Born: September 8, 1950 in Pullman,Washington.

Mattis enlisted in the Marine Corps at age of 18 and continued to serve for 44 years. He is known as a key figure in the Iraq War and was given the nickname “Mad Dog” after his leadership of the Marines in the 2004 Battle of Falluja in Iraq, one of the bloodiest of the war. In 2005, he said it was fun to “shoot some people” which attracted controversy. He also has been said to disagree with Trump’s stance on waterboarding, a form of torture.

Over his years in the marine corps, he has come under fire for saying things such as, “There is nothing better than getting shot at and missed. It’s really great.” He also told Iraqi generals that “if you f*** with me, I will kill you.”

Secretary of Education-Betsy DeVos, confirmed

Born: January 8, 1958 in Holland, Michigan.

DeVos is an American businesswoman. She chairs in American Federation for Children, a group that supports charter school education. She is a long time supporter of the Republican party. She also advocates for school choice, which allows public education funds to follow students to the schools that suit their needs. In addition, she was on the board of a committee that supported common core. Trump opposes both school choice and common core. Before her Senate committee hearing, she had not finalized her financial and ethical disclosures.

Secretary of Energy-Rick Perry, confirmed

Born: March 4, 1950 in Haskell, Texas.

Perry was the governor of Texas from 2000-2015. He went to Texas A&M, where he majored in animal science. He also served in the U.S. Air Force from 1972-1977. He is part of the Board of Energy Transfer Partners which has some control over the Dakota Access Pipeline. He spent six years on the Texas House of Representatives, served as lieutenant governor for two years, and served two four-year terms as the Texas Commissioner of Agriculture. While running for president in 2012, he said that if elected he would get rid of three executive departments. He named the Departments of Education and Commerce but he forgot the Department of Energy.  

He is a lifelong member of the National Rifle Association (NRA).  He has said he opposes federal funding for abortion, believes the federal government should regulate Wall Street, and he sued the Environmental Protection Agency for regulated carbon emission.

Secretary of Health and Human Services-Tom Price, confirmed

Born: October 8, 1954 in Lansing, Michigan.

Price worked in a private practice as an orthopedic surgeon. He was an assistant professor at Emory and the Medical Director of Orthopedic Clinic at Grady Memorial Hospital. He graduated from the University of Michigan. He served four terms on the Georgia Senate and became the first republican majority leader in GA history. He represents Georgia’s 6th Congressional District in the House of Representatives. In the House, he was the chairman of the House Budget Committee, which makes decisions about Congress’ budget.

He is known for being the go-to Republican on quality healthcare. He is a big critic of the Affordable Care Act, and he introduced the Empowering Patients First Act to the 113th Congress (2013–14). This act would repeal the Affordable Care Act and replace it with patient-centered solutions, however the act was not passed when it was proposed. He is anti-abortion, disapproves an increased debt limit, and voted on reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act.

Secretary of Homeland Security-General John F. Kelly, confirmed

Born: May 11, 1950 in Boston, Massachusetts.

Kelly enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1970, was sent to Guantanamo Bay in Cuba and was honorably discharged in 1972 as a sergeant. He graduated from the University of Massachusetts in 1976 and returned to Marines. Eventually, he became the commander of the U.S. Southern Command, Southcom. Through Southcom he was responsible for managing security threats posed by criminal drug networks based in South and Central America. He also oversaw operations at Guantanamo Bay and said that “there are no innocent men down there.” He lost his son in Afghanistan, making him a Gold Star father. The four-star general received the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, which is a medal given to a person who has provided a distinguished performance of duty while benefiting the national security or defense of the United States, and is known as the armed forces’ longest-serving general.

Secretary of Housing and Urban Development-Ben Carson, confirmed

Born: September 18, 1951 in Detroit, Michigan.

Carson is known for his up-from-the-bootstraps life story. He started out as a  poor student who eventually made his way to medical school. At the age of 33, he became the Director of Pediatric Neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital. He gained fame when he was the first person to separate conjoined twins. Carson ran for President in 2016, but dropped out after struggling in the primaries.

Secretary of Interior-Ryan Zinke, confirmed

Born: November 1, 1961 in Bozeman, Montana.

Zinke is Montana’s sole representative in the House. He was a U.S. Navy Seal for 23 years. During his years of service, he earned two bronze stars for combat missions in Iraq. He serves on the House Armed Services Committee and the House Committee on Natural Resources. He is affiliated with the Republican party, and he supported Trump during his campaign. In the past, he supported legislation that would repeal ‘Obamacare’, and replace it with patient-centered, free market reforms.

He also introduced a piece of legislation called Justice of Victims of Military Sexual Assault. This law provides better quality attorneys to the victims of sexual assault in the military. He is vocal about how important women are in the military, and last year he introduced legislation that would require women to register for the draft.

Secretary of Labor-Alexander Acosta, nominated

Born: January 16, 1966 in Miami, Florida.

Acosta is currently the Dean of the Florida International University College of Law. He was a member of the National Labor Relations Board from 2002-2003. Once he graduated from Harvard Law, he worked as a clerk (someone who provides advices to judge on a ruling) for Supreme Court Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. He came under fire while he was heading the civil rights division of the Justice Department for his conservative views in 2008, including his writing of a letter that encouraged poll monitors in predominantly black neighborhoods. In the past, he has defended the rights of Muslim Americans.

Secretary of State-Rex Tillerson, confirmed

Born: March 23, 1952 in Wichita Fall, Texas.

Tillerson graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a degree in Civil Engineering. He then joined ExxonMobil in 1975 as a production engineer. At Exxonmobil, he worked his way through the ranks, and in 1998 became Vice President of Exxon Ventures and President of Exxon Neftegas Limited. This position made him responsible for the company’s holdings in Russia. He became the CEO of Exxonmobil in 2006. He has donated money to Republican presidential campaigns in the past, but did not donate to Trump’s campaign. In 2013, he received the Order of Friendship from Vladimir Putin, the President of Russia.

He has acknowledged that climate change was a real problem, but Exxonmobil, under his control, moved away from using renewable energy.

Secretary of Transportation-Elaine Chao, confirmed 

Born: March 26, 1953 in Taipei, Taiwan.

Chao came to the U.S. when she was eight years old with her family. She has said that her experience of coming to the U.S. led her to want to help others build a better life.  She was the Deputy Secretary of Transportation for George H.W. Bush. Later, she served as the Secretary of Labor in George W. Bush’s Cabinet, making history as the first woman of Asian descent to serve in a Presidential Cabinet. In the 1990s, she was director of the Peace Corps and was appointed as the CEO of United Way of America, a non-profit organization. She is considered to be half of one of most powerful couples in Washington because she is married to the Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell.

Secretary of Treasury-Steven Mnuchin, confirmed 

Born: December 21, 1962 in New York, New York.

Mnuchin comes from a wealthy family. His father was a partner at Goldman Sachs, an investment banking company. Mnuchin followed his father and became a partner at Goldman Sach after he attended Yale. He left Goldman Sachs in 2002 and founded RatPac Dune Entertainment, a motion picture production company which produced movies such as the X-Men series and “Avatar.” In the past, he has made donations to both Republican and Democratic campaigns. Trump made him his campaign finance chairman in May 2016.

With his experience with investment banking, he made millions during the 2008 housing crisis. After Mnuchin’s nomination, he said he would focus on tax reform and promised the biggest tax cut since the Reagan administration.

Secretary of Veteran Affairs-David Shulkin, confirmed

Born: June 22, 1959 in Fort Sheridan, Illinois.

Shulkin grew up on an Army Base in Illinois. He went to the Medical College of Pennsylvania (which is now part of Drexel University) to receive his degree and did his internship at Yale School of Medicine. He was the president at Morristown Medical Center in New Jersey from 2010 to 2015. Before his nomination, he was the Undersecretary for Health for the Department of Veteran Affairs. During his time at the VA, he talked about how prevention of veteran suicide was a top priority.

Attorney General-Jeff Sessions, confirmed

Born: December 24, 1946 in Selma, Alabama.

Sessions has been a senator from Alabama since 1996. During his time in the Senate, he served on the Senate Judiciary Committee and he was one of three senators to vote against more funding for the Department of Veteran Affairs. He went to the University of Alabama School of Law, graduated in 1973 and became a lawyer. In 1986, Ronald Reagan nominated him to be a judge for the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Alabama. Sessions did not make it pass the committee vote due to allegations from four lawyers he worked with that he made racist comments.

These comments included statements that the NAACP was “un-American” and the Ku Klux Klan was “OK, until [Sessions] found out they smoked pot.” Session denied the allegations.  He has voiced his opinion on stronger border security and against immigration reform. In addition, he is against abortion, same-sex marriage and the Affordable Care Act, but he supports the Victims of Child Abuse Act Reauthorization Act, which gives funding to help the victims of child abuse.