Every time a new president steps into office, the country watches impatiently as they begin to make the White House their own.
In the nearly two weeks since his inauguration, Trump has made changes large and small, controversial and slightly less controversial.
With all the dissension that currently surrounds the White House, it is important to remember that the president — however powerful he may be — is not the only one calling the shots for the next four to eight years. That’s right — I’m talking about cabinet picks.
The presidential cabinet consists of 16 members — the vice president and the heads of 15 executive departments. Cabinet members are first nominated by the president, then confirmed or rejected by the Senate through a simple majority.
Among protests, major decisions and policy changes, it might have been hard to notice, but important cabinet confirmation hearings have been taking place in Washington, D.C.
Here is a run-through of the qualifications and controversies to name just a few of the many important pieces in the new Trump administration.
Trump nominated James Mattis as the US Secretary of Defense. Known as James “Mad Dog” Mattis, he spent over four decades in the Marine Corps. According to CBS News, the 66-year-old decorated war veteran served as the chief of US Central Command until he retired in 2013, amid disagreements with the Obama Administration over its foreign policy in the Middle East.
Mattis was confirmed in his fairly brief Senate confirmation hearing Jan. 12 in a 98-1 vote. Due to Mattis only being retired from active duty for three years, Congress had to pass a specific law to exempt him from the requirement that officers must be retired from active duty for at least seven years before becoming defense secretary. Along with Mattis’ confirmation, Congress passed the needed, but controversial measure to hasten the process.
As defense secretary, Mattis will oversee key plans to combat the Islamic State and command a military with its own internal struggles and controversies for the next four or more years.
As a large GOP donor and former chairwoman of the Michigan Republican Party, Betsy DeVos is a devoted Republican representative — one that Trump sees as beneficial as the secretary of education in his cabinet.
As education secretary, DeVos, a school choice activist, would oversee the department that Trump plans on narrowing at the federal level, giving more responsibility to state and local governments.
After DeVos’ first confirmation hearing Jan. 17, where she took her turn at responding to a rather grueling and uncomfortable set of questions, it was suggested that she take another round in the hot seat with a second hearing.
After Trump’s inauguration, DeVos tweeted a short message about the day’s events, which entailed grammatical and word usage errors, leading her to even more public scrutiny.
DeVos is being criticized by Democrats for being less than knowledgeable about the department’s needs, and Republicans are also concerned she may be connected to groups that support Common Core Standards.
After unsuccessfully running for president in 2012 and 2016, Rick Perry might once again have another shot at spending some time in the White House as Trump’s pick for secretary of energy.
Perry spoke at his Senate confirmation hearing Jan. 19, and still has yet to be confirmed.
According to CNN, as the governor of Texas from 2000 to 2015, Perry presented himself as an advocate for a range of energy sources and noted that he lead the nation’s largest energy-producing state.
However, in his confirmation hearing, Perry had to answer questions regarding comments he made about the US Energy Department five years prior. In 2012, while campaigning for president, Perry stated he would eliminate the department he might now oversee.
In another comment that is confusing many with its neutral attitude — according to the New York Times at his confirmation hearing — Perry commented on climate change and said, “I believe some of it is naturally occurring, but some of it is also caused by man-made activity.”
The Senate has only confirmed six of Trump’s cabinet-level nominees so far. As the next few weeks approach, it is important to keep up with those who will be running the country along with the president.
Hailey Stewart can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @Hailey_ann97