Role of Cabinet Vs. The Executive Office

Roles of  the Cabinet and the Executive Office of the President

Article II (section 1)  of the United States Constitution entrusts the President with Executive power; this power extends to the president being the head of state and the head of government. In addition, POTUS is also the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces. By virtue of Executive power the president is responsible for acting in the best interest of all Americans, the president is also placed under the obligation of promoting democracy through implementing democratic principles.

The implementation of the constitutionally provided presidential mandate can only be effectively addressed through agencies(executive agencies and the cabinet), which act on behalf of the President(Barbour,276). These agencies report any developments and consult the president on all matters. As such, the different agencies act as proxies helping the president to ensure that all laws and policies are faithfully executed. Additionally, these agencies aid in the implementation of the President’s development agenda.

The Cabinet

The term ‘cabinet’ refers to senior federal government appointees, working under the executive branch of government. The president of the United States enjoys the discretion of nominating their preferred cabinet members subject to Senate approval. However, Article 1 section 6 of the U.S Constitution excludes any person holding office under the United States, from membership to either house during his continuance in office. The meaning of this provisions works to exclude sitting governors, U.S Senators and Members of the House of Representatives from cabinet appointment until such a time that they resign before being sworn-in to the presidential cabinet.

Once elected to office, the president nominates cabinet officers and presents the list to the U.S Senate for confirmation or rejection. The confirmation or rejection requires the statutory provided simple majority vote.

Composition of Cabinet

The cabinet includes the heads of all the 15 executive departments:: State, Labor, Defense, Interior, Education, Agriculture, Transportation, Energy, Treasury, Housing and Urban Development, Commerce, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, and Veterans Affairs. Also, the Attorney General, the Vice President, seven Cabinet-level officials, the administrator of the Environmental protection agency and the White House chief of Staff make up the cabinet.

Role of the Cabinet

The cabinet exists by virtue of  Article II, Section 2 of the United States Constitution which establishes the Cabinet, with its primary mandate being serving an advisory function to the president. Additionally, the Twenty-Fifth amendment authorizes the Vice President, backed by a majority of members of the Cabinet to declare the president Unfit to discharge the powers and duties of the office.

Cabinet members are also tasked with the duty of leading their respective departments. In fulfilling this mandate, cabinet members create policies tailored to achieve the regimes agendas. Cabinet members are placed under an obligation to report any developments or technical hitches to the president.

Significance of Cabinet

In addition to providing advice to the president, members of the cabinet qualify to provide a succession mechanism in case the president is incapacitated. Under the succession mechanism, ascension to power is by seniority. The first to ascend to the office of the president is the Vice President, followed by the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Treasury, the Secretary of Defense, and the secretaries of Justice, Interior, Agriculture, Commerce, Labor, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, Transportation, Energy, Education, Veteran Affairs, and Homeland Security respectively.

The Executive Office of the President

Commonly referred to as EXOP, came to existence in 1939 after the Brownlow committee decreed that holders of the office of the President need help to implement their mandate and constitutional duties(Barbour, 274).

Appointment to the EXOP is less rigorous as compared to appointment to the Cabinet, very few appointments are subjected to Senate confirmation. The justification for the flexibility is to provide fluidity and discretion to the President on choosing the best team that adapts and understands his style(Barbour 278). Based on the fluid nature of the EXOP it is difficult to determine the workers of the Executive office because the hiring process is dependent on a need-basis. The office of the EXOP is headed by the White House Chief of Staff.

There exists three principal agencies of the EXOP, these include;

National security Council; the NSC is the principal body used by the President to form all policies relating to National Security and Foreign policy. Members of this council include the President, the Vice President, Secretary of State, Secretary of Defence, and the National Security Advisor. The President may also choose to consult military advisors and intelligence advisors on a case by case basis.

Office of the White House: the office of the White House is composed of assistants of the President tasked with overseeing policy, politics, and to protect the interests of the president. This office is headed by the White House Chief of Staff (Barbour, 277).

Office of Management and Budget; the primary responsibility of the Office of Management of Budget is to develop the country’s budget in line with the implementation of the President’s agenda. Additionally, the mandate of the OMB extends to assessing the effectiveness of government programmes.

Other agencies under the current administration include; office of National Drug Control Policy, Office of Science Technology and Policy, Council on Environmental Quality, and the Council of Economic Advisers.

Significance of the EXOP

Composed of the immediate staff and support staff, officers working in the EXOP are obligated to provide information and analyze all key issues faced the administration. In implementing this obligation, the EXOP;

  1. Provides guidance in specialist policy areas
  2. Evaluates both political and legal significance of all presidential actions or decisions
  3. Writing speeches for the president and presenting the President’s view and agenda to the general public
  4. Liaise with Congress to support the President’s programmes
  5. Regulating who gains access to the President
  6. Monitor the different executive department agencies to ensure that the political agenda of the president is implemented.

Cabinet Vs. EXOP

Prior to 1939, cabinet secretaries played a vital role in offering advice to presidents and managing their different roles towards implementing governmental policy. However, the power of cabinet secretaries was limited by the creation of the Executive Office of the President which came as a response to the expansion of governments role in the country’s economy.

Over time, the EXOP has taken over some of the primary policy functions reserved for the cabinet and other government agencies. These policy functions include; domestic policy development, National Security policy advice, legal advice to the president, and Trade Policies development. Further, the EXOP has taken over roles that were reserved for Congress and political parties, these include; the recruitment of political appointees, outreach to interest groups, and liaising with Congress.

The effect of this take over is that it puts cabinet secretaries on a collision course with the Executive Office of the President. The justification for this collision is that cabinet secretaries are political appointees and represent different demographic groups and presidential priorities. As such, cabinet secretaries have strings attached to other groups that may not necessarily agree with the president’s agenda.

Once in office, Cabinet secretaries put in place measures that champion their own policies, and work to champion for presidential priority through seeking budget resources to implement their policies.

On the other hand, members of the Executive Office of the President stay loyal to the President because they are not political appointees and their primary mandate revolves around aiding the President in implementing his agenda.

As such, interference by the EXOP is specifically tailored to promote and protect the best interests of the president. Cabinet secretaries resent this interference and cannot do anything about it because of the constitution grants and reserves the executive power to the president. secondly,  The Constitution of the United States does not provide for the doctrine of collective responsibility which would to some extent curtail the president’s executive power, instead the United States Constitution reserves absolute executive power to the President which means that the agenda of the president is not subject to approval by the cabinet secretaries. Thirdly, cabinet secretaries are appointed by the President hence their tenure starts or ends at the pleasure of the president.

Conclusion

Both the Executive Office of the President and the Cabinet serve an advisory role to the president, and both exist to assist the President in implementing his constitutional mandate and agenda. As a consequence of this duplication of duties, the relative importance of the Cabinet to the President is dependent on the value he places on the advice of members of the EXOP. Given this predicament,  presidents in the past have tended to disregard advice from cabinet secretaries and preferred to advise from the EXOP because of their uncompromised loyalty.

The duplication of the advisory role presents limitations with regards to the significance of the EXOP to the extent that relying solely on its advise has the effect of isolating the president from the reality outside the White House.

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