THE RESET: Familiar faces on Obama's 2nd-term team

January 30, 2013 - 1:31 PM
Kerry State

Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., speaks briefly to reporters as he emerges after a unanimous vote by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee approving him to become America's next top diplomat, replacing Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2013. Kerry, who has served on the Foreign Relations panel for 28 years and led the committee for the past four, is expected to be swiftly confirmed by the whole Senate later Tuesday. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

President Barack Obama is much of the way through completing his second-term Cabinet and top White House staff. For many of those chosen so far, it's been a game of musical chairs. Same faces, new places.

He nominated Jack Lew — his chief of staff and earlier his budget director — to be Treasury secretary. To fill the chief-of-staff opening, the president chose his deputy national security adviser, Denis McDonough.

Obama is expected to name Sylvia Mathews Burwell, a veteran of the Clinton administration and a close associate of Lew, as his next budget director.

He moved White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer to the job of senior adviser and replaced him with his deputy, Jennifer Palmieri.

And Obama nominated White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan to head the Central Intelligence Agency.

Meanwhile, Obama's nomination of Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry to replace Hillary Rodham Clinton as secretary of state breezed through the Senate on Tuesday, 94 to 3.

More problematic is his choice of Republican former Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska to replace retiring Leon Panetta as defense secretary. Hagel is expected to be closely grilled at his confirmation hearing Thursday about earlier remarks on gays, Israel and Iran.

Yet despite Republican angst over the nomination, Hagel seems likely to squeak by.

Some soon-to-be empty seats have no new occupants yet named.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, currently the only Republican in the president's Cabinet, announced this week he was leaving his post. So are the secretaries of Labor and Interior and the head of the Environmental Protection Agency.

Remaining, as of now, are Attorney Gen. Eric Holder, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Housing Secretary Shaun Donovan, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, Education Secretary Arne Duncan, Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki and U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice.

Energy Secretary Steven Chu is expected to make a decision soon.

Cabinet-level nominations require Senate confirmation. White House staff appointments don't.

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