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What Is the Cabinet?

The president runs the executive branch, but he gets a lot of help from the Cabinet.

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The president is the head of the executive branch of the federal government. His job is to sign bills passed by Congress into laws, enforce federal laws, and command the military, amongst other things. As the number of laws and the government in general grows, that becomes more and more work for one person to handle. So, over the years, presidents have established new departments in the executive branch to help run the country. The heads of these departments, along with the vice president, make up what is called the Cabinet.

The Cabinet of the United States originally consisted of the vice president, the attorney general, the secretary of state, the secretary of treasury, and the secretary of war – which was later renamed secretary of defense. Over the years, many new departments – and therefore Cabinet positions – have been added. The full Cabinet now includes the following departments: Interior, Agriculture, Commerce, Labor, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, Transportation, Energy, Education, Veterans Affairs, and Homeland Security.

Each Cabinet member is the head of his or her department, and each department is in charge of a different segment of the federal government. For example, the Department of the Treasury prints money, collects taxes, manages the national debt, and supervises banks throughout the country. The Department of Justice, headed by the attorney general, is in charge of enforcing federal laws and prosecuting those who violate them. It includes various federal law enforcement agencies, like the FBI, the ATF, and the DEA, as well as a great number of attorneys.

It is important to note that while the Cabinet is mighty and helps manage the country, the president ultimately holds power in the executive branch. A president will not willingly pick a Cabinet that opposes his real legislative plan, even if their public statements say otherwise. While bureaucrats are extremely powerful nowadays, they still answer to the president at the end of the day.

Jose Backer, General Assignment Reporter, is a graduate of St. Michael's College and is currently pursuing a Master's Degree in Political Science. Born and raised in Southern California, he currently resides in the Pasadena area.

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