Speculation is growing as to what kind of signal President Barack Obama plans to send with new Cabinet nominations and how they could help bridge the partisan gap keeping Washington in gridlock.
“Obama needs to send a signal that what he said with regard to reconciliation is real,” Republican strategist Brad Blakeman told The Daily Beast
. “Bringing new people into the Cabinet and to the White House provides the president with a new team to fight old battles from a new perspective.”
Most members of the Cabinet have served a full four years under the president. But at least four key members have indicated they plan to leave early next year, if not sooner.
Attorney General Eric Holder, for example, is expected to stay on at least through the 50th anniversary celebration of the Civil Rights Act. But even that could change.
He told Reuters he wasn’t sure yet. “Do I have some gas left in the tank? That’s something I’m in the process now of trying to determine," he said.
One of the names mentioned has his replaces is Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.
Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner says he plans to leave in January, after putting off his departure for more than a year at the request of the president.
Among those who could be offered Geithner’s job, according to the Huffington Post, are Janet Yellin, vice chair of the Federal Reserve, and Sheila Bair, former head of the FDIC. Former White House Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles, who helped to craft the Bowles-Simpson Commission deficit reduction plan, has also been mentioned as a possible replacement.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has announced her intention to depart as well, but has said she will stay on until her successor is confirmed, according to the Daily Beast.
Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is a frontrunner for the job, according to numerous reports, which also mention U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice as a contender as well.
Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, meanwhile, has said he will stay in his position at least until the president and Congress can resolve the standoff over sequestration, or the so-called "fiscal cliff" crisis, which could lead to more defense cuts beginning in January, in addition to those already initiated under Panetta's watch.
Former Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, who was considered for the post when Obama was first elected in 2008, is being mentioned for the post again. But according to the Daily Beast, some inside the administration are pushing for the appointment of Michele Flournoy, a former undersecretary of defense for policy, as the first woman to head the Pentagon.
“She’s brilliant, smart as hell, has deep knowledge across the defense issues—personnel, weapons systems, strategy, she knows how to run the Pentagon, and she’s very well liked,” an unnamed Democratic source told the Beast.
According to the Associated Press, advisers to the president say he is likely to put off any Cabinet decisions until negotiations can be completed on the debt crisis.
How those negotiations go could play a role in determining who he nominates to fill some of the most important Cabinet posts.
“The first thing is to try to find a way out of the box we’re in with regards to the fiscal cliff,” said former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle. “When the new Congress convenes they’ll begin the nominating process for what I expect will be a good number of vacancies.”
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