Do White House Staff Have to be Chosen from Those in Elected Office?

A lot of the people being discussed for the Obama Administration’s West Wing staff positions and Cabinet are currently serving Congressmen and Governors. I know that Cabinet members have to resign their elected offices if they choose to serve. I assume the same is true of White House staff (conflict of interest much?).

So, how much consideration is given to the fact that cherry-picking the “best and brightest” out of the legislative branch and the states’ executive branches will weaken the current Democratic majority? Can the Administration really afford to be yanking Governors and Senators out of their seats when they could be doing the country just as much good where they are?

Also, would it even be possible to entirely create an administration from outside the Capitol - pulling all your members from lower level public service and private enterprise instead of elected officials?

Of course the president doesn’t have to chose people who hold elective office. And most of his staff isn’t going to be drawn from those who hold elective office now, it’s just that unimaginative stories about cabinet possibilities always focus on people with high name recognition which means those who currently hold elective office.

As long as you can convince the Senate to consent to your appointments, you can choose anyone you like.

Notice that a lot of the media outlets are talking about Warren Buffet as an outisde chance at Treasury Secretary pick. I personally think that’s exceedingly unlikely, but it’s at least being entertained as a technical possibility.

I’ve read the Obama’s Cabinet thread over in GD and listened to the (nearly non-stop) discussion on CNN & MSNBC so I get that basically “everyone who has ever given a press conference” is on people’s Fantasy Cabinet Football lists, and that there really aren’t any restrictions (except felony convictions and total unappointability).

What I’m really wondering - and maybe this isn’t GQ-able - is whether people’s current positions are considered “too valuable” for those folks to resign them and serve the President, leaving the elected seats vulnerable to new candidates?

(And maybe more answerable - or maybe not) - can there ever be just ONE right person for a position at any given time - so perfect for a job that the administration would convince them to take the job, even if it meant jeopardizing the Senate majority? The House majority is probably of much less concern, given how much larger it is numerically.

Also they don’t have to be Dems. The Votemaster suggests that either Arlen Spector of PA or Olympia Snowe of ME, two of the vanishing breed of centrist Repubs might be offered a cabinet post. Both ME and PA have Democratic governors and so the replacement would be a Dem. Another nominal Repub, Colin Powell has been mentioned for State, the office he held during Bush’s first term. Personally, I think he compromised himself by not going public with his misgivings.

That’s one way to get to 60.

Not unusual. The Republican Governor here in Minnesota has been appointing as Judges Legislators from Republican-leaning Districts, so that a Republican can win the Special Election. He also plays games with the dates, like scheduling the Special Election between Christmas & New Year’s, or on the first day of classes in a district with a large student population.

But to his discomfort, Democrats are organizing and winning in many of these Special Elections.

If they accept the offer, which they probably wouldn’t if they thought that was why he made it.

[Hijack]Might we see any moderate GOPers switch to the majority this time, like Nelson did after 1994?[/hijack]

I distinctly remember that most of Clinton’s appointments were NOT elected officials. E.g. Janet Reno, Donna Shalala.



I remember Ben Nighthorse Campbell and Richard Shelby switching.

Before becoming Attorney General, Janet Reno was State’s Attorney for Dade County; State’s Attorneys are elected in Florida. Granted, she was initially appointed to the position, but she won five elections to this position.

Obama will not pick the best and the brightest, he will pick the ones that did him favours to get elected. ALL PRESIDENTS do this. This is why so many politicians dumped Hillary as soon as it was obvious she couldn’t win. They wanted to be in line to get favours if Obama was elected.

This is why our country has so many issues. Too much pork. And it’s not Obama it would have been Hillary or McCain or anyone who would’ve won

This seems like a non sequitur. What does pork-barrel spending have to do with a president choosing his cabinet and advisors?

:smack: Yes, somehow I always remember Campbell’s name wrong.

Cite? Most of Bush’s nominations have been qualified people.

Two things:

  1. He’s probably not going to come up with a cite for each President, but it’s understood that most Presidents have done this because they pick people they know, and people that they know tend to be people who helped them get where they are (because politicians don’t tend to stick closely with people who didn’t help them).

  2. Harriet Miers? Michael “Heck of a job” Brown? Alberto Gonzales? I think you’d be hard pressed to find someone the current President nominated who hadn’t been part of either (a) his father’s administration or (b) his Texas coterie. I fully expect that Obama’s cabinet will be largely Clinton administration extras and/or Chicagoans.

As far as I know, most of the current cabinet don’t fit your categories. The only ones who do are Rice, Chao, Spellings, and Walters.

Several old Clinton hands have already warned Obama not to give too many Democratic senators new gigs in his administration. Even where a Democratic governor will keep the seat (at least temporarily) in party hands, it can cause more problems than it’s worth when it comes to getting your agenda through Congress.

If you replace a Senator, I presume their replacement is back to the bottom of the pecking order. Not necessarily smart.

I’m not sure this one could ever have been answered in General Questions, but it definitely belongs somewhere else. Moving to Great Debates.

samclem General Questions Moderator