Obama's Cabinet and other top jobs

Penny Pritzker is considered a top contender for the Commerce job. Penny Pritzker is considered a top contender for the Commerce job. Charles Dharapak/AP file photo

President Obama has already announced many of the most high-profile posts in his second-term Cabinet, but he still has many decisions left to make. 

Here are the positions left to fill and the leading contenders:

  • Commerce Secretary. The Commerce Department has been run by an acting secretary ever since John Bryson resigned this summer. Penny Pritzker, a hotel heiress and mega-bundler for Obama, recently surfaced in the Chicago Sun-Times as the top choice for the Commerce job, one that has been marred by bad luck for its holder for years. Fred Hochberg, head of the Export-Import Bank, is also mentioned as a possibility for the job. If confirmed, he would be the first openly gay Cabinet member.
  • Energy Secretary. Steven Chu said he will step down as secretary sometime after this month. The list of potential candidates to replace him includes Deputy Secretary of Energy Daniel Poneman, hedge-fund founder Tom Steyer, former Sen. Byron Dorgan, and former Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire.
  • Environmental Protection Agency Administrator. Former EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson announced her departure in December and will leave after the president’s Feb. 12 State of the Union address. Gina McCarthy, assistant administrator for EPA's Office of Air and Radiation, has emerged as a top contender in recent days, Reuters reports. Other possibilities include Bob Perciasepe, the deputy administrator, and Christine Gregoire.
  • Interior Secretary. Ken Salazar will vacate the position by the end of March. Gregoire is also a likely choice for Interior, a job that has traditionally been held by politicians from Western states. Office of Personnel Management Director John Berry has also been cited as a possibility, as have Deputy Interior Secretary David Hayes, Democratic Rep. Raul Grijalvaof Arizona and former Democratic Rep. Norm Dicks of Washington. 
  • Labor Secretary. Colorado Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia is the top pick for the job previously held by Hilda Solis, according to Reuters. Ed Montgomery, an economist and the dean of Georgetown University’s Public Policy Institute, is also being considered, according to The Washington Post. Montgomery served in a variety of roles during the Clinton administration. Finally, former two-term Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm appears to be in the mix as well.
  • Trade Representative. Ron Kirk will step down in late February. Jeffrey Zients, the acting director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, is the leading contender to replace him, according to the Financial Times. Lael Brainard, Treasury undersecretary for international affairs, has also been interviewed for the job, and Ex-Im's Hochberg is mentioned as a candidate as well.
  • Transportation Secretary. Deborah Hersman, the Democratic head of the National Transportation Safety Board, has emerged as a leading candidate to fill the post when Ray LaHood steps down, The Wall Street Journal reports. Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa had been considered a top contender, but he said in a recent statement that although he’s been “flattered and humbled” by speculation that he’d join Obama’s Cabinet, “I am firmly committed to remaining in L.A. and finishing my term.” His term is up on June 30. Another candidate, former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, similarly took himself out of the running.
  • White House Office of Management and Budget Director. Sylvia Mathews Burwell, who heads the Walmart Foundation, is the top candidate for OMB director, according to CNN Money. She has D.C. experience: Burwell served as OMB’s deputy director during the Clinton administration, and was Clinton’s deputy chief of staff and chief of staff to then-Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin.

Obama has already made his choices for some of the top jobs. Here's who he's picked so far:

  • CIA Director. Obama nominated his top counterterrorism adviser, John Brennan, to fill the post. Brennan’s nomination may spur a debate about Obama’s counterterrorism tactics, including the use of drones. But Brennan's path to the CIA may be a smoother one than it was four years ago, when he was a candidate for the same job but withdrew after controversy arose over his service in the Bush administration.
  • Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director. Obama renominated CFPB Director Richard Cordray for the job, setting up a contentious confirmation process in which the structure and budget of his agency is likely to be questioned once more, particularly after a recent court ruling that has implications for the constitutionality of Cordray’s recess appointment last year.
  • Defense Secretary. Obama nominated Chuck Hagel, a former two-term Republican senator from Nebraska, to head the Defense Department. Hagel was expected to face a rocky road to confirmation, with controversies over everything from his stance on Israel to gay rights—and he didn’t appear to win over his critics during a confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee last month; his performance was widely panned.
  • Secretary of State. Former Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts was nominated and confirmed to the post. His first day at the State Department was Feb. 4.
  • Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman. Obama nominated tough-as-nails former prosecutor Mary Jo White to fill the position. The president’s selection of White suggests a tougher approach to Wall Street, but others have questioned her record of defending Wall Street bigwigs.
  • Treasury Secretary. Obama nominated White House Chief of Staff Jacob Lew to replace Timothy Geithner as Treasury secretary. The selection of Lew, who has lots of experience in Washington budget battles, is thought to signal the president's intention to focus on fiscal issues in the coming years.
  • White House Chief of Staff. The president tapped Deputy National Security Adviser Denis McDonough to serve as chief of staff after nominating Lew for the Treasury secretary's post. Here's what you need to know about McDonough.

Finally, a number of folks are expected to stay in the administration, at least for the beginning of the second term. They are:

  • Agriculture Secretary. Tom Vilsack indicated in a recent speech that he'd be staying on, and the USDA communications director confirmed that Vilsack had accepted an offer from Obama to stay on, according to Bloomberg.
  • Ambassador to the United Nations. Susan Rice withdrew her name from consideration to be secretary of State in December, but she's expected to stick around in her current role.
  • Attorney General. Eric Holder plans on remaining, a White House official tells National Journal.
  • Council of Economic Advisers Chairman. Alan Krueger has been in the position only since November 2011, and some insiders believe he will stick around in Obama’s second term.  
  • Education Secretary. Arne Duncan told National Journal he plans to stay on for a second term.
  • Health and Human Services Secretary. Kathleen Sebelius is expected to remain, a White House official says. 
  • Homeland Security Secretary. Janet Napolitano is staying on, The Hill confirms.
  • Housing and Urban Development Secretary. The Wall Street Journal reports that Shaun Donovan is aboard for a second term. This fall, Donovan said he was “very, very happy with the work” he's doing.
  • Small Business Administration Administrator. Karen Mills's name has been floated for Commerce secretary, but for now, there's little chatter of her going anywhere else.
  • Veteran Affairs Secretary. Eric Shinseki is staying, according to a White House official.
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