If you think the executive branch is just the President, Vice President, and a small team of advisors, you are wrong. Mr. Beat explains the President's Cabinet.
Want a specific history topic covered? Just like Ian, your idea gets picked when you donate on Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/iammrbeat
Mr. Beat's band: http://electricneedleroom.net/
Mr. Beat on Twitter: https://twitter.com/beatmastermatt
Produced by Matt Beat. All images found in the public domain or used under fair use guidelines. Music, used by permission, by Jermaine Hysten.
In this video, I will explain the history and purpose of the Cabinet.
So let’s start with the Constitution. Article II, Section 2 says the President gets some help- he or she doesn’t have to do job alone. The Cabinet’s official role is to give the President advice based on their expertise. The Constitution actually doesn’t say anything explicitly about a Cabinet. The word “cabinet” comes from the Italian word “cabinetto,” which means a small, private room. You know, a place to talk about important stuff without interruptions. The first President to use the term was James Madison, who called his meetings “the President’s cabinet.”
Over the years, as the country has grown, the Cabinet has grown. George Washington, the First President and still my favorite one by the way, held the first cabinet meeting on February 25, 1793. He had just four Department Heads there. His Secretary of State, Thomas Jefferson, Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton, Secretary of War, Henry Knox, and Attorney General Edmund Randolph. Jefferson and Hamilton spent much of the meeting fighting over the creation of a national bank. Today the Cabinet officially includes the heads of 15 executive departments.
All 15 Department Heads are in the line of succession, meaning that if the President, Vice President, Speaker of the House, and the President por tempore (por temporay) of the U.S. Senate all died, these folks would be next up to take the President’s spot. That’s why Kiefer Sutherland became President that one time, even though he was just the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. Wait a second, was that real life? Nooo, yeah I’m pretty sure that’s just a TV show, come to think of it.
The President nominates the department heads and presents them to the Senate to be approved by a simple majority, aka 51 of the 100 Senators approve. The Vice President doesn’t need Senate approval, as he or she is elected, but neither does the White House Chief of Staff, who is basically the President’s personal assistant. Because the Chief of Staff manages the President’s schedule and manages the White House staff, her or she is often seen as a gatekeeper of sorts.
The Chief of Staff actually isn’t technically a part of the Cabinet, though. He or she is what we call a Cabinet-level official. Cabinet-level officials attend Cabinet meetings but are not official Cabinet members. It includes the Trade Representative, Director of National Intelligence, Ambassador to the United Nations, the OMB Director, the CIA Director, the EPA Administrator, and SBA Administrator.
Cabinet members, except the Vice President, can be fired by the President fairly easy. (Donald Trump clip “you’re fired”) Yeah, the current President probably has made that quite evident. All Cabinet members are subject to impeachment by the House of Representatives if they act up.
Now here’s the thing. I haven’t even got to the individual federal agencies that both fall under the umbrella of the departments or are independent agencies. You know, like the FBI, CIA, Federal Trade Commission, Social Security Administration, National Park Service, Corporation for Public Broadcasting, NASA, and many others I am sure you have heard of. For the most part, they all are part of the executive branch.
How many federal agencies are there? Well, I had a really hard time figuring this out. I honestly don’t think anyone really knows.
There might be 430, according to one source I found, or there might just be 115, according to the Administrative Conference of the United States, which recently printed “There is no authoritative list of government agencies.” We do know that there are approximately 4 million people who work for the federal government. Probably. Maybe? That number is not for sure either.
There’s also all the state and local workers who get federal aid, not to mention the millions of contractors who work for the federal government.
The bottom line is, the executive branch is HUGE. The Cabinet is a gigantic force, and not one easily reckoned with.