Political News

What Trump's Cabinet has been up to

Posted June 12

They've been armed with directions to cut out waste, fraud and abuse, and to change the way the federal government works.

For President Donald Trump's Cabinet, most of their work has taken place out of the limelight. But several took the opportunity to highlight what they've been up to when the President gathered his full Cabinet for the first time on Monday.

Trump offered each a brief opportunity to speak. They thanked him for their jobs, and several offered an update about their ongoing work.

Here's what the Trump administration Cabinet has been up to:

State Department -- Secretary Rex Tillerson

Like many secretaries of state, the former ExxonMobil CEO has spent his first few months on the job traveling the globe on behalf of the Trump administration. Tillerson told Trump that he relayed his boss' message that, "America will continue to be a leader but (allies) must do more."

Tillerson's job, at times, has been complicated by Trump. Last week, the two men made contradictory remarks on a diplomatic crisis involving Qatar.

Treasury Department -- Secretary Steve Mnuchin

Tax reform remains the top priority on Mnuchin's economic agenda. The White House has followed up a one-page outline of Trump's tax reform plans with few details, and any legislation will likely face headwinds in Congress.

Mnuchin also has an important role in the administration's fight against ISIS.

"I can assure you we are focused on creating sustained economic growth, sweeping tax reform and fighting terrorism with sanctions and all other programs within our control," he told the President on Monday.

Department of Defense -- Secretary James Mattis

Mattis leads the Department of Defense as the military confronts global instability. The US dropped its most powerful non-nuclear bomb ever used in combat -- known as the "mother of all bombs" -- on ISIS targets in Afghanistan and launched a missile strike on a Syrian Airbase base as a direct response to the chemical attack that killed dozens of innocent Syrians.

The military has also undertaken the next steps in the fight against ISIS, including the near-liberation of Mosul and the effort to take ISIS' self-proclaimed caliphate in Raqqa.

Justice Department -- Attorney General Jeff Sessions

In March, Sessions was forced to recuse himself from the Russia investigation over his undisclosed meetings with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.

But the nation's chief law enforcement officer also made waves by taking a tougher tack against illegal immigration and pushing for tougher penalties for those convicted of crimes.

At Monday's meeting, the attorney general talked up Trump's support from law enforcement.

"The response is fabulous around the country," he told the President.

Interior Department -- Ryan Zinke

"I am committed and optimistic that we can be both great stewards and be the world's largest producer of energy," Zinke said at the meeting, echoing a sentiment the President has voiced.

The interior secretary is currently reviewing public lands designated under several recent presidents, setting the stage for a potential shrinking of federal holdings -- possibly including the controversial Bears Ears National Monument designated by President Obama.

The secretary rode a horse to work his first day and allowed employees to bring their dogs to work -- a first for a federal agency.

Department of Agriculture -- Sonny Perdue

The last of Trump's Cabinet members to make it through Senate confirmation, Perdue has visited farms and fairs in his first months on the job, giving speeches on agriculture policy. He recently returned from speaking about poverty in rural America at a meeting in Mississippi.

Perdue has modified federal rules about school lunches, struck an agreement to have China resume buying US beef, and met with Canadian leaders to address US farmers' concerns with milk prices.

Commerce Department -- Wilbur Ross

The billionaire investor has authority over one of Trump's signature issues from the beginning of his campaign -- trade. Trump pulled out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership early in his administration, and has signaled to Congress a desire to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA.

Ross pointed to the importance of trade policy for Trump's presidency, saying he is "thrilled to have the chance to help you live up to your campaign promises."

Labor Department -- Alexander Acosta

Acosta, who has only been on the job for about six weeks, pushed for his apprenticeship program at the Cabinet meeting.

He also plans to review overtime regulations, although he has been critical of an Obama-era expansion of eligibility for overtime pay.

Department of Health and Human Services -- Tom Price

Price is a key player in shaping the Trump administration's health care policies -- including new health care legislation to replace Obamacare.

Price talked up his recent appearance at a G-20 healthcare meeting in Berlin, and the world health assembly in Geneva. Price's main priority -- repealing and replacing Obamacare -- is looking for traction in the Senate.

Department of Housing and Urban Development -- Ben Carson

Among the best-known members of Trump's Cabinet, Carson has spent most of his tenure out of the spotlight.

After his confirmation, Carson embarked on a listening tour and defended the Trump administration's deep proposed cuts to HUD programs. Middle school students in Cairo, Illinois, wrote him letters asking for housing help, he answered, but disappointed them with his reply.

At Monday's meeting, he quipped about the one of his public appearances for National Homeownership Month: "I'll be ringing the -- the bell on Wall Street at 4 o'clock, which means I have to leave at 12. Thanks."

Department of Transportation -- Elaine Chao

Chao is a principal in putting together Trump's promised trillion-dollar infrastructure plan, and thanked Trump for participating in "Infrastructure Week" with his speech at the Department of Transportation last Friday.

While "Infrastructure Week" has come and gone, the administration's plans for more roads and bridges remains largely a mystery.

Energy Department -- Rick Perry

Perry recently returned to the United States from a green energy conference in China, in the immediate wake of Trump's decision to pull out of the Paris Climate Agreement.

Perry told the Trump team that his message for China was: "We're still going to be leaders in the world when it comes to climate, but we're not going to be held hostage by some executive order that was ill-thought-out."

Perry also handled a potential crisis when a tunnel at a nuclear waste site collapsed.

Department of Education -- Betsy DeVos

DeVos road has in office has been bumpy ever since the vice president had to cast a historic tie-breaking vote to confirm her.

Protesters have confronted her at public events, and congressional Democrats have taken her on at public hearings on Capitol Hill. In one, she was repeatedly pressed by Democrats concerned she wouldn't commit to making sure federal money would not go to private schools that openly discriminate against certain people and groups.

DeVos is also developing a federal program she says will give parents more choice over where and how children receive their education.

Department of Veterans Affairs -- David Shulkin

Shulkin, a doctor who Trump promoted from within the VA, has largely stayed out of the public spotlight while leading a department that has made headlines in recent years for mishandling the veterans' health care system.

Last week, Shulkin announced an initiative to modernize the VA's information technology systems.

On Monday, he thanked Trump "for your support and commitment to honoring our responsibility to America's veterans."

Department of Homeland Security -- John Kelly

Kelly has overseen DHS' crackdown on immigration, and took credit for a 70% drop in illegal immigration on the southern border.

"We are no longer a friendly environment for illegal border crossers," Kelly said Monday.

Kelly did not address the lack of progress on one of Trump's most famous pledges -- to build a Mexican-funded wall on the southern border.

Kelly has instituted a ban on large electronic devices on certain flights and has considered expanding the ban more broadly.

US Environmental Protection Agency -- Scott Pruitt

The controversial EPA chief recently spent just a few hours in Italy with other G-7 environmental officials, leaving his European counterparts before the summit ended.

He urged Trump to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement, which Trump eventually did.

Since his confirmation in February, Pruitt has pushed the agency to roll back Obama-era policies on climate and is preparing the agency for potentially deep budget cuts.

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