Scoop: Zients calls for any Cabinet resignations ASAP
White House Chief of Staff Jeff Zients has been quietly calling members of President Biden’s Cabinet to deliver a subtle message: If you plan to leave, please do so in the next few months.
Why it matters: Biden's Cabinet will play a key role in his re-election campaign, as he contrasts his accomplishments with what's likely to be a nasty fight among GOP contenders. Republicans will be eager to tweak the White House, so Biden's team wants to avoid any confirmation battles in an election year.
- For now, Zients wants to be able to move quickly if any Cabinet replacements are needed. He also wants to let them know they're valued.
- Republicans are looking for ways to draw attention to what they view as Biden's biggest policy failures. A Senate confirmation fight over a Cabinet post would give them that chance — and could force vulnerable Senate Democrats to take a potentially difficult vote.
- A White House spokesperson declined to comment on Zients' calls.
Between the lines: As the White House has learned this year, getting nominees confirmed by the divided Senate — where four Democrats could be facing tough re-election campaigns races next year — is far from guaranteed.
- Biden's pick for labor secretary, Julie Su, is in serious danger and is waiting for a floor vote. His nominees to lead the Federal Aviation Administration and for an open seat on the Federal Communications Commission went down earlier this year.
The big picture: Biden plans to run for re-election by trying to skate above the partisan — and petty — skirmishes that often define Washington.
- The goal is to cast the president as a statesman, bathe him in the dappled light of the Rose Garden, and frame him in TV shots with world leaders on the international stage.
- Biden's team is convinced it can get more reach from local media when they cover either the president or a Cabinet official who's in town. They plan to have Cabinet officials hit the road to sell the infrastructure, clean energy and semiconductor bills Biden signed into law last year.
- "I’m here with my Cabinet, continuing to focus on getting the job done for the American people," he said.
Flashback: Zients’ status checks with Cabinet members, conducted over the last few weeks, are similar to those he did before the midterm elections last fall.
- Democrats' strong showing in the midterms helped lead to fewer departures than some had expected.
Zoom out: Biden’s Cabinet has been remarkably stable, with just four exits — Eric Lander, who was director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy; Ron Klain, Biden's first chief of staff; Marty Walsh, his first labor secretary, and Cecilia Rouse, who was chair of the Council of Economic Advisers.
- At a similar stage in his presidency, Donald Trump had at least 15 departures, according to the Brookings Institution.
Zoom in: There’s no clear statutory definition of the Cabinet, and presidents configure theirs however they like.
- Biden's has 25 members and all but two — the vice president and the White House chief of staff — require Senate confirmation.
The bottom line: White House officials can't be assured that everyone in today's Cabinet will stay — but they want to have plenty of time to ensure that the full team is in place for 2024.