Research Paper Topics: U.S. Presidential Cabinet

Since the beginning of 2016, there has been much discussion of the new presidential cabinet members selected by President Trump. Unlike elected representatives, the cabinet members are appointed directly by the U.S. president. But who makes up the Presidential cabinet, and what are the executive departments that they head?

Departments under the U.S. presidential cabinet. (Credit: Externs On The Hill)

Departments under the U.S. presidential cabinet. (Credit: Externs On The Hill)

Who among the cabinet members is a part of the presidential line of succession? Exploring the presidential cabinet and their responsibilities, as well as the type of power and responsibility they have had over the years, and how their roles have changed, could all be interesting research paper topics for an American history or political science paper.

What is the presidential cabinet?

The Cabinet dates back to the Constitution itself, as outlined in Article II, Section 2. George Washington had a cabinet of four members: Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson, Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton, Secretary of War Henry Knox, and Attorney General Edmund Randolph. But some departments have a longer history than others; for example, the Department of Homeland Security was added to the Cabinet by the Homeland Security Act of 2002. Other cabinet departments have a short lifespan: the Department of Commerce and Labor was created in 1903, but was divided into the Department of Commerce and the Department of Labor in 1913. In “What is the president’s cabinet” for Dummies.com, Kirk Bailey explained the basics.

Research paper topics involving the history of the presidential cabinet could include looking into the lifespan of different cabinet departments. Which cabinet department is the oldest? Which have gone through substantial changes since their initial inclusion?

Description of presidential cabinets

Several members of the presidential cabinet are in the presidential line of succession. These include, in the closest spots, the Vice President, followed by two non-cabinet positions before the Secretaries of State, Treasury and Defense. The Attorney General and others follow. While it is unlikely that the cabinet members farther along the succession would ever be called to take the presidential office, the fact that the cabinet makes up the majority of the line of succession gives these appointees a degree of power unequalled by most elected representatives.

Cabinets are frequently controversial. According to a reporter for the Eugene, OR Register Guard, in “A Cabinet Like No Other,” published January 8, 2017, “President Dwight Eisenhower’s Cabinet was described by columnist Richard Strout as ‘eight millionaires and a plumber.’ (The plumber was Labor Secretary Martin Durkin of the Journeyman Plumbers and Steamfitters Union.)” Washington Post contributor Tracy Jan noted in her January 20, 2017, article “What Trump’s whiter, less academic Cabinet says about race and class in America” that President Obama’s cabinet was criticized “for being stacked with intellectual elites: Only two members held a bachelor’s degree alone.” Jan also pointed out, “Bill Clinton’s first Cabinet included just as many minorities as Obama’s, and it was even more educated, with all but one Cabinet member holding doctorate or law degrees.” President Trump’s cabinet selections, meanwhile, have been criticized for being wealthier and less diverse.

For more on the U. S. Executive Branch of Government, visit Questia.

What are your thoughts on the presidential cabinet—current or historical? Tell us in the comments.

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