Election 2008

Susan Walsh/AP
Eric Holder, potential pick for Attorney

The Presidential Cabinet: Potential Picks for Veterans Affairs, Housing and Urban Development, and Justice

November 20, 2008
by Isabel Cowles
FindingDulcinea speculates about President-elect Obama's choices to represent these departments and what mandates they are likely to follow in the new administration.

Department of Veterans Affairs

The Department of Veterans Affairs provides support for military veterans through health care, jobs, benefits, burials and memorials. According to the organization’s Web site, “About a quarter of the nation's population—approximately 70 million people—are potentially eligible for VA benefits and services because they are veterans, family members or survivors of veterans.”

Before he resigned as senator, Obama served as a member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee. In conjunction with his large-scale healthcare plans, President-elect Obama will likely work towards greater coverage for veterans. On November 11, Obama visited a war memorial in Chicago to commemorate Veterans Day. Tammy Duckworth, an Illinois National Guard helicopter pilot who lost her legs while serving in Iraq, was at his side. Duckworth currently works as the Illinois Veterans Affairs director; she spoke at the Democratic National Convention and Forbes magazine’s Trailwatch blog suggests her as a possible pick for head of Veterans Affairs.

Department of Housing and Urban Development

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is designed to increase equal-opportunity homeownership across the country by supporting community development and discouraging housing discrimination. HUD’S Strategic Plan 2006–2011 is available on the department’s Web site.

One of Obama’s most significant challenges will undoubtedly be the current housing crisis. According to a recent report by the Associated Press, the solutions he outlined during his campaign may not be enough to put a stop to home foreclosures and the mortgage crisis, and aggressive action is likely to be taken by the Department of Housing and Urban Development. HUD has already begun streamlining mortgage forms and working towards increased regulation: whomever President-elect Obama selects will likely focus on aggressive regulatory oversight and increased transparency in mortgage lending.

Several political analysts had suggested that Senator Obama’s choice for Secretary of Housing and Urban Development might be longtime friend and confidante Valerie Jarrett who has advised the Chicago Housing Authority through her own private company, Habitat. But Jarrett has recently accepted a role as public liaison and senior aide to the president, leaving the HUD Secretary position up for debate.

Department of Justice (Office of the Attorney General)

The Attorney General serves as legal representation for the United States and offers counsel to the President and heads of the executive branch when necessary. According to the U.S. Department of Justice Web site, “Since the 1870 Act that established the Department of Justice as an executive department of the government of the United States, the Attorney General has guided the world's largest law office and the central agency for enforcement of federal laws.”

Prior to the election, the American Bar Association (ABA) profiled a series of prominent American lawyers who seemed like potential choices for executive positions in an Obama administration. The ABA predicted, and many other media sources have since confirmed, that President-elect Obama would choose Eric Holder to serve in America’s most influential legal position. Holder has worked at the Justice Department and for both Republican and Democratic presidents in the past, serving a D.C. judgeship through Reagan’s nomination and as D.C.’s U.S. attorney under President Clinton. He worked briefly as acting attorney general in the Bush administration as John Ashcroft was being confirmed.

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