Your Guide to Obama's Staff Reshuffling

Catherine Hollander

With inauguration coming up in a few weeks, President Obama has begun shuffling top administration jobs for his second term. Here is National Journal's guide to the expected changes:

The Upcoming Appointments 

  • Attorney General. Eric Holder doesn’t plan to be the “Janet Reno of the Justice Department,” he said last month in reference to the former AG who served two full four-year terms. “I thought [that] was amazing back then when I was her deputy. I find it incomprehensible now as Attorney General,”Holder said at an event at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum. He is expected to stay on for the beginning of Obama’s new term and depart at a still-unreported time. When he does go, potential successors include Democratic Sens. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island — both former prosecutors — and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, who is rumored to have interest in the job. Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, who was a top Justice official under Clinton, is oftend cited as a candidate, although he has said he won’t leave his current post for the AG spot. 
  • Commerce Secretary. The post has been unfilled since John Bryson resigned in the aftermath of a hit-and-run car accident this summer. Export-Import Bank Chair Fred Hochberg is in the running and, if confirmed, would become the first openly gay Cabinet member. Alternatively, the job could go to a someone from the business world or to someone else inside the administration, such as U.S. Trade Rep. Ron Kirk or Karen Mills, head of the Small Business Administration.
  • Energy Secretary. Steven Chu is expected to step down, and the short list for his replacement includes Energy's Deputy Secretary Daniel Poneman; North Dakota's Democratic former Sen. Byron Dorgan, who served on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee; and former Clinton White House Chief of Staff John Podesta, who heads the Center for American Progress.
  • Homeland Security Secretary. If Janet Napolitano takes the AG spot, Obama may need to nominate a new head of the Homeland Security Department. Possible picks include New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, law-enforcement expert Bill Bratton, and retired Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen.  
  • Transportation Secretary. Secretary Ray LaHood indicated a year ago that he would leave during a second term, although he’s been tight-lipped about his plans of late and some media outlets have reported that he might stay for all or part of the next four years. If he goes, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is seen as the frontrunner for the job. Other candidates include Democratic former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell and former Rep. Steve LaTourette, R-Ohio.  
  • Treasury Secretary. Timothy Geithner is expected to leave this month, and all signs point to White House Chief of Staff Jack Lew stepping into the post.
  • White House Chief of Staff. If Chief of Staff Jack Lew goes to Treasury, his spot at the White House might go to Ron Klain, Vice President Joe Biden’s former chief of staff. Other contenders include Deputy National Security Adviser Denis McDonough and Valerie Jarrett, who is currently a senior adviser to Obama.
  • White House Office of Management and Budget Director. Obama might give OMB Acting Director Jeffrey Zients the full-time gig. If decides to go in another direction, Douglas Elmendorf, director of the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, and Gene Sperling, director of the National Economic Council, are also seen as contenders.

The Folks Expected to Stay for a Second Term

  • Council of Economic Advisers Chairman. Alan Krueger has only been in the position since Nov. 2011, and some insiders believe he will stick around into Obama’s second term. 
  • Director of National Intelligence. James Clapper told colleagues last month that he plans to stay on as director.  
  • 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 stay on for another term. 
  • Housing and Urban Development Secretary. Shaun Donovan said in fall that although the fate of his job is in Obama’s hands, he’s “very, very happy with the work” he’s doing. He's expected to stay for another term.
  • Labor Secretary. Hilda Solis is expected to stay on for another term.  
  • National Security Adviser. Tom Donilon is expected stay on, at least into the beginning of the next term.

The Maybes

  • Agriculture Secretary. Tom Vilsack could stick around to help implement Obama’s “detailed plan” for the rural economy. But he may also be replaced by someone with closer ties to Capitol Hill — someone like former Democratic Sens. Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas and Kent Conrad of North Dakota, or current Sen. Jon Tester, a Democrat from Montana and the chamber’s only working farmer. 
  • Interior Secretary. Ken Salazar is reportedly still weighing whether he wants to stay on for another term and is expected to make an announcement in “coming months,” according to The Denver Post. The secretary has plans on his calendar through February, according to the same story.

The Nominees

  • Central Intelligence Agency Director. President Obama has 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 his path to the CIA is easier than it was four years ago, when Brennan was a candidate for the same job, National Journal reports.
  • Defense Secretary. Obama nominated Chuck Hagel, a two-term Republican  former senator from Nebraska, to head the Defense Department. Although he’s widely perceived as qualified for the job, Hagel is expected to face a rocky road to confirmation, with controversies over everything from his stance on Israel to gay rights.
  • Secretary of State. Massachusetts' Democratic Sen. John Kerry won the nomination for this position in December. He is not expected to face a tough confirmation fight in the Senate.