Front Page Talking Points


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The president’s team: Six cabinet seats remain empty more than a month after Trump took office


1.gifLook for a cabinet member's name or photo. What department does she or he lead?

2.gifRead news about any federal agency and tell how its work could affect students and their families.

3.gifNow find coverage of a federal policy or issue being debated and summarize a few key points.

President Trump, sworn in just over five weeks ago, already has one record he'd rather not set. Senators have confirmed only nine of his 15 cabinet nominees. No other U.S. president in the modern era has waited this long for final approval of all department heads. "I hate having a cabinet meeting and I see all these empty seats,” Trump said last Friday. Earlier, he tweeted: “It is a disgrace that my full cabinet is still not in place."

Six vacancies exist partly because Democrats say some nominees have not had adequate background checks and others aren't qualified. That stalls action by committees that must send each nomination to the full Senate for a vote. In one case, fast-food executive Andrew Puzder withdrew from consideration as labor secretary a day before his committee hearing amid criticism of his business record and personal character. In a few cases, delays arise because of relatively late nominations. Trump announced Department of Veterans Affairs nominee David Shulkin just nine days before the inauguration and unveiled Department of Agriculture pick Sonny Perdue just two days before taking the oath of office. Shulkin was confirmed unanimously Feb. 13, but Perdue still awaits a committee hearing.

On the Republican side, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky say: "Democrat obstruction has reached new extreme levels." He calls that a "historic break with tradition" and adds: "It's time to finally accept the results of the election and move on." Although the review process overall is slower than usual, the Senate – which has a 52-member Republican majority -- hasn’t rejected anyone nominated by the Republican president. The closest call came Feb. 7, when Betsy DeVos was approved as education secretary by 51–50 – with Vice President Mike Pence breaking a tie vote.

President says: "It's just delay, delay, delay - it's really sad." – At a Conservative Political Action Committee meeting in Washington, Feb. 24

Senate Democratic leader say: "This is not even close to a normal Cabinet. I have never seen a Cabinet this full of bankers and billionaires, folks with massive conflicts of interest and such little experience or expertise in the areas they will oversee." – Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York

Columnist says: "He has, to his credit, assembled a reasonably competent cabinet." – Ross Douthat, New York Times

Front Page Talking Points is written by Alan Stamm for NIEonline.com, Copyright 2017
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