President Trump’s Cabinet has come under fire by progressives from the beginning. It appears that the criticism has spread across more of the political spectrum since. Far from only the best; this Cabinet doesn’t even appear to even be one of acceptable quality. Perhaps that is why we are getting the outcomes we are. The current situation reminds me of the old computer expression GIGO (garbage in; garbage out). Let’s explore.
There are 25 Cabinet positions. The Vice President is elected and is neither subject to Senate confirmation nor can be removed by the President. The way our political system currently works a legitimate case can be made that the position is filled at the President’s discretion anyway.
Currently four slots are filled by people of acting status. With Linda McMahon leaving the SBA slot on Friday and no replacement named one spot is open. By my calculations that means 20% of the Cabinet is serving sans Senate confirmation. Ponder that for a bit.
Of those confirmed a disturbing number have received far from a consensus of the Senate vote. Too many have squeaked through on basically a party line vote. The Republican controlled Senate has yet to deny Trump any nominee. Although it took a tie breaking vote by Vice President Mike Pence to get Education Secretary Betsy DeVos confirmed 51-50.
Acting Defense Secretary, Patrick Shanahan, is having his confirmation vote held up while he is the subject of an investigation into whether he interfered into contract awarding to benefit his former employer Boeing. There is a big Boeing influence in the Trump administration. I wonder if it was that factor or just a coincidence that led the United States to be the last country of consequence to ground a suspect Boeing aircraft. No I don’t.
Here are the original Cabinet members who are still serving ranked by their confirmation votes:
Elaine Chao 93-6
Sonny Perdue 87-11
Dan Coates 85-12
Robert Lighthizer 82-14
Wilbur Ross 72-27
Rick Perry 62-37
Alex Acosta 60-38
Ben Carson 58-41
Steve Mnuchin 53-47
Mick Mulvaney 51-49
Betsy DeVos 51-50
Here are the replacement members ranked by confirmation vote:
Robert Wilkie 86-9
Mike Pompeo 57-42
David Bernhardt 56-41
Alex Azar 55-43
Bill Barr 54-45
Gina Haspel 54-45
Andrew Wheeler 52-47
By comparing the lists you can see the situation has deteriorated with time. I contend that many of the totals are “inflated” by situations. Senators often voted for a nominee out of desperation, frustration or circumstance.
Chao is Mrs. Mitch McConnell. It is difficult to vote against the wife of the person who controls whether any piece of legislation you sponsor or support ever comes to the floor. Incidentally, Mitch didn’t recuse himself on this vote.
While Coats is one of the few Cabinet members who I would give a passing grade, I have to think the “old boys’ network of the Senate” inflated his vote.
Four, (Carson, Mnuchin, Mulvaney and DeVos), of the eleven “survivors” failed to receive the 60 votes required to kill a filibuster if that rule was applicable to Cabinet confirmations. By the current rules it is easier to confirm a Cabinet member than pass an obscure piece of legislation.
The situation has gotten dramatically worse with time. Only one, (Wilkie), of the current Senate confirmed “replacements” cracked the 60 vote ceiling. One Democratic Senator admitted the only reason he voted for Bernhardt is because he knew the Republicans had the votes to confirm him and that his office had to interact with the Interior Department on an almost daily basis. That is hardly a glowing recommendation! Considering all the Trump instilled controversy at Justice and the fact that Matt Whitaker was the acting AG do you think that may have inflated Barr’s total? I do!
There is reason to believe it will only get worse unless Senate Republicans grow a spine. Reports are that Trump told acting HHS Secretary Kevin McAleenan not to worry about breaking the law because he will pardon him if it comes to that. Of course the White House will claim (they have already used this off the record) that Trump was only joking when he offered a preemptive pardon.
The root problem is that Trump is aided by a compliant Republican Senate majority. Both need to be removed by the people at the ballot box in 2020. I think there is a serious question of quality in the current Cabinet or should I just say a lack thereof?
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