Obama's Cabinet To The Right Of Democrats in Congress

by: Chris Bowers

Mon Dec 22, 2008 at 14:07


In the 110th Congress, there were 236 Democrats in the U.S. House, 49 in the Senate, and two "Independents" who caucused with Democrats. Of those 287 congresscritters, 74 were members of the New Democratic Coalition, which is affiliated with the DLC. Overall, 25.8% of the Democratic members of the 110th Congress were openly affiliated with the DLC. An additional 31 members of Congress are affiliated with the Blue Dogs, but not with the New Democratic Coalition. If the Blue Dogs are included, the overall DLC-Blue Dog membership in of Democratic congresscritters increases to 36.6%, and 38.1% in the House.

Now, compare this to Obama's cabinet selections. Of the eighteen cabinet members (not counting Joe Biden, who I have seen listed as a cabinet member at times), sixteen are Democrats. Of those sixteen, eight are affiliated with the DLC, or 50%. Obama's Democratic cabinet selections have twice the DLC representation of the Democratic membership of Congress. This list does not include Rahm Emanuel, who will be the first White House Chief of Staff during the Obama administration. Nor does it include national security advisor Jim Jones, who supported McCain during the election.

No Blue Dogs seem to have been selected for the cabinet, but even so the DLC-Blue Dog membership in Obama's cabinet is higher than the DLC-Blue Dog membership of the Democratic caucus in the House or Senate. Adding in the two Republican members, and Obama's cabinet has a Republican-DLC majority. The 55.6% DLC-Republican representation in Obama's cabinet closely mirrors the overall DLC-Republican representation in the Senate (55% in the incoming Senate, plus freshman new NDC members) and House (53.6%, plus freshman NDC members).

The Congressional Progressive Caucus has 69 members in the incoming congress, plus former member Nancy Pelosi (the Speaker resigns from ideological caucuses), plus new membership among freshman. Additionally, three members (Sherrod Brown, Bernie Sanders and Tom Udall) have been elected to the Senate in 2006-2008. Overall, including Nancy Pelosi, 25.4% of the Democratic membership of the House and the Senate in 2007-2008 were Congressional Progressive Caucus members. One member of this group, Hilda Solis, will be in Obama's cabinet. Another member, Xavier Bacerra, was asked to serve as trade representative, but declined.

Obama's cabinet selections, when compared to the Democratic caucuses in the House and the Senate, has a significantly higher representation of DLC members and a significantly lower representation of Progressive Caucus members. If association with the New Democratic and Progressive caucuses can be used as a proxy for ideological inclinations, which voting records have previously suggested it can be, then Obama's cabinet is to the right of the Democratic membership in Congress.

Hopefully, this serves as a more systematic means of analyzing the ideological inclinations of Obama's cabinet than I have previously presented.

Update: Given the vagarities in the articles linked in this post, I would like create a definitive list of the DLC, Blue Dog, Republican, and pro-McCain members of Obama's cabinet. Wikipedia lists 22 cabinet-rank positions in the Obama administration, 21 of which have a current nominee. Seven of those twenty-one--Clinton, Daschle, Emanuel, Napolitano, Richardson, Salazar and Vilsack--have confirmed DLC ties. Two, Gates and LaHood, are either Republican or Republican-leaning. Larry Summers and Jim Jones do not appaear to have been nominated or appointed to cabinet-level positions.

More information as I find it. Help on determining the exact number of cabinet-rank positions in the Obama administration, as well as confirmable ties to the DLC among the current appointments for those positions, is much appreciated in the comments.  

Chris Bowers :: Obama's Cabinet To The Right Of Democrats in Congress

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interesting analysis... (0.00 / 0)
just out of curiosity, who are the eight?

The centrist Democratic Leadership Council claims ties with half the group.(from Matt's original post).

can these "ties" be verified?  of what sort are they?  


I will try to find out (0.00 / 0)
The ones I know for certain are Clinton, Daschle, Napolitano, and Vilsack. I don't know the other four, but I will try to find out.

[ Parent ]
Overview (0.00 / 0)
I've bolded those who are DLC-affiliated (your list plus Richardson and Salazar) as well as those who are Republican:
NATIONAL SECURITY

SECRETARY OF STATE- Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York
SECRETARY OF DEFENSE- Robert Gates
ATTORNEY GENERAL- Eric Holder
HOMELAND SECURITY- Gov. Janet Napolitano of Arizona
SECRETARY OF VETERAN'S AFFAIRS- Ret. Army Gen. Eric Shinseki
U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS- Susan Rice
NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER- Ret. Marine Gen. James Jones

ECONOMIC AFFAIRS

SECRETARY OF TREASURY- Timothy Geithner
SECRETARY OF COMMERCE- Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico
SECRETARY OF LABOR- Rep. Hilda Solis of California
COMMISSIONER, SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE- Mary Schapiro
DIRECTOR, DOMESTIC POLICY COUNCIL- Melody Barnes
DIRECTOR, NATIONAL ECONOMIC COUNCIL- Larry Summers
CHAIR, ECONOMIC RECOVERY ADVISORY BOARD- Paul Volcker
CHAIRWOMAN, COUNCIL OF ECONOMIC ADVISERS- Professor Christina Romer
DIRECTOR, OFFICE OF MANAGEMENT & BUDGET- Peter R. Orszag

ENERGY & ENVIRONMENT

SECRETARY OF ENERGY- Professor Steven Chu
SECRETARY OF INTERIOR- Sen. Ken Salazar of Colorado
ENERGY, ENVIRONMENT COORDINATOR- Carol Browner, the former head of the EPA
ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY ADMINISTRATOR- Lisa Jackson
CHAIR, COUNCIL ON ENVIRONMENTAL QUALITY- Nancy Sutley

DOMESTIC POLICY

SECRETARY OF HOUSING AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT- Shaun Donovan, the head of New York's housing department
SECRETARY OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES- Fmr. Sen. Tom Daschle of South Dakota
SECRETARY OF EDUCATION- Arne Duncan, head of the Chicago public school system
SECRETARY OF AGRICULTURE- Fmr Gov. Tom Vilsack of Iowa
SECRETARY OF TRANSPORTATION- Rep. Ray LaHood, Republican of Illinois


If there are more DLC members on this list, I don't know who they are.

[ Parent ]
DLC claims Summers (0.00 / 0)
DLC claims Summers on their website. He is not cabinet level, though. Still looking for the other thre cabinet level.

[ Parent ]
They're taking Vilsack back now? (4.00 / 2)
How interesting. My recollection was that their parting wasn't that amicable.

Or at least not simply a matter of it being time for Vilsack to move on and "spend more time with his family."

Amazing how friendly From will tell you he is with Vilsack now that the guy's gotten another big time job!


[ Parent ]
Richardson (0.00 / 0)
Plus Richardson, who makes five. Looking for the other three...

[ Parent ]
Salazar (0.00 / 0)
The DLC also appears to be claiming Salazar on their website. Still looking for the other two cabinet level. Emanuel, Jones and Summers don't count, because they are not cabinet level.

[ Parent ]
I've been wondering that, myself. (4.00 / 3)
The article had some pretty thin qualifications for being "tied" to the DLC, including having spoken at their conventions.

The article even makes note of the fact that this is supposed to be a turnaround for the DLC, since none of the presidential candidates went to their 2007 convention, but most appeared at Yearly Kos/Netroots Nation that year. By that definition, of course, most of them are "tied" to the Netroots.

I'm just curious because the DLC has been questioned before about those whose names they claim are affiliated with them. Most notably Barack Obama, who apparently had to go to some lengths to get them to acknowledge he wasn't a member.


[ Parent ]
True (0.00 / 0)
although I think it'd be hard to give "the netroots" an ideological classification which I think is what Chris is going for. But good point on Obama specifically getting the DLC to admit he did not have ties to them. That's what came to mind for me too when I read this post.  

[ Parent ]
Good point. (0.00 / 0)
Although I'm not 100% certain I'm willing to grant that the DLC has got a coherent ideological stance, either. It may strive for one, but it's a mutual aid society as much as anything else. To the extent that its members espouse the same political philosophy, it's as often a function of their having borrowed their position papers from the PPI as any actual commonality of philosophy.

[ Parent ]
Hyde Park Declaration (0.00 / 0)
I've been looking over the DLC's Hyde Park Declaration, and at its signatories:

Evan Bayh, United States Senator, Indiana
John Breaux, United States Senator, Louisiana
Lee Brown, Mayor, Houston, Texas
Bob Buckhorn, City Councilman, Tampa, Fla.
Tom Burroughs, State Representative, Kansas
Kevin Cahill, State Assemblyman, New York
Ken Cheuvront, State Representative, Arizona
Michael Coleman, Mayor, Columbus, Ohio
Pat Colwell, State Representative, Maine
Kathleen Connell, State Controller, California
Marti Crow, State Representative, Kansas
Donald T. Cunningham Jr., Mayor, Bethlehem, Pa.
Wayne Curry, County Executive, Prince George's County, Md.
Jim Davis, United States Representative, Florida
Dan DeMarco, Commissioner of Ross Township, Pennsylvania
Dana Lee Dembrow, State Delegate, Maryland
Calvin Dooley, United States Representative, California
Douglas M. Duncan, County Executive, Montgomery County, Md.
John A. Fritchey, State Representative, Illinois
Jeff Gombosky, State Representative, Washington
Ron Gonzales, Mayor, San Jose, California
James S. Gregory, City Councilman, Bethlehem, Pa.
Daniel Grossman, State Representative, Colorado
Lars A. Hafner, State House Democratic Caucus Chairman, Florida
Bob Hagedorn, State Representative, Colorado
Karen Hale, State Senator, Utah
Robert Henriquez, State Representative, Florida
Scott N. Howell, State Senate Democratic Leader, Utah
Sam Hoyt, State Assemblyman, New York
Calvin Johnson, State Representative, Arkansas
Paula F. Julander, State Senate Minority Whip, Utah
Ember Reichgott Junge, State Senate Assistant Majority Leader, Minnesota
Delores G. Kelley, State Senator, Maryland
John F. Kerry, United States Senator, Massachusetts
Kwame Kilpatrick, State Representative, Michigan
Mary Landrieu, United States Senator, Louisiana
Thomas Lazieh, City Councilman, Central Falls, R.I.
Joseph Lieberman, United States Senator, Connecticut
Blanche Lambert Lincoln, United States Senator, Arkansas
Duane E. Little, Assessor, Shoshone County, Idaho
Dannel P. Malloy, Mayor, Stamford, Conn.
Jennifer Mann, State Representative, Pennsylvania
Jack Markell, State Treasurer, Delaware
Stan Matsunaka, State Senator, Colorado
Jonathan Miller, State Treasurer, Kentucky
Tom Miller, State Attorney General, Iowa
Bobby Moak, State Representative, Mississippi
James P. Moran Jr., United States Representative, Virginia
Eva Moskowitz, City Council Member, New York
Ed Murray, State Representative, Washington
Janet Napolitano, Attorney General, Arizona
Martin O'Malley, Mayor, Baltimore, Md.
Marc R. Pacheco, State Senator, Massachusetts
John D. Porcari, State Secretary of Transportation, Maryland
David Quall, State Representative, Washington
Joe Rice, Mayor, Glendale, Colo.
John Riggs IV, State Senator, Arkansas
Antonio R. Riley, State Representative, Wisconsin
Stacy Ritter, State Representative, Florida
Charles Robb, United States Senator, Virginia
Carroll G. Robinson, City Councilman, Houston, Texas
Tim Roemer, United States Representative, Indiana
Linda J. Scheid, State Senator, Minnesota
Allyson Schwartz, State Senator, Pennsylvania
Kathleen Sebelius, State Insurance Commissioner, Kansas
Eleanor Sobel, State Representative, Florida
Ellen O. Tauscher, United States Representative, California
Michael L. Thurmond, State Labor Commissioner, Georgia
Tom Vilsack, Governor, Iowa
Kirk Watson, Mayor, Austin, Texas
J.D. Williams, State Controller, Idaho
Philip Wise, State Representative, Iowa
Jane Wood, State Representative, New Hampshire

What's been bugging me is the cross-listing of some of these names between the DLC, Third Way, and the NDN, all of whom claim the mantle of progressivism.

The fact that many are landing within the Obama administration, well, it doesn't do much to lift hope for change, does it?


[ Parent ]
No Blue Dogs (0.00 / 0)
No Blue Dogs seem to have been selected for the cabinet...

Awesome. And while I have no love for the DLC, I will say that they aren't as horrible as the Blue Dogs.

Is it sad that I'm left talking about how it could have been worse?


oh Chris, but don't you realize (0.00 / 0)
that using fact and figures such as this are just an utter waste of time? How can you possibly use facts and records and memberships and whatnot as a predictor?  Why are you trying to ruin our hanukkah?! (/snark)

Which Senators? (0.00 / 0)
Besides Russ Feingold and Barry Sanders, who are the progressive members of the Senate, and how do you determine who gets a Progressive Merit Badge?

For instance, Chris Dodd is not a progressive in my book (see: Iraq War vote, Private Securities Litigation Act, loosening of accounting standards, bank deregulation, $700 billion bailout, etc.). How would he be classified in yours?



No CPC in the Senate (0.00 / 0)
There is no Progressive Caucus in the Senate, so the determination is not official. For this post, I listed the three CPC members from the House, Brown, Sanders and Udall, who were elected to the Senate.

Surely, there are other progs in the Senate, like Boxer, Feingold and Leahy, but there is no list.


[ Parent ]
Percentages (0.00 / 0)
So three of the eight DLC affiliates are unaccounted for (might be DLC blustering) and we have no official number for progressives?  Perhaps the numbers aren't as bad as they seem. from this analysis.

[ Parent ]
Harkin probably would have been in there too (0.00 / 0)
if that caucus had been around when he was a representative.

[ Parent ]
Well (0.00 / 0)
Sanders is listed as a Senate member, but it's not real well orginized.

John McCain: Beacuse lobbyists should have more power

[ Parent ]
Football on the brain perhaps? (0.00 / 0)
"Besides Russ Feingold and Barry Sanders"

Alas, although I wish Barry had retired from the NFL so that he could have run for senate from Oklahoma, it was not meant to be. However, we did get Bernie Sanders in Vermont, and a fine senator he is.  


[ Parent ]
lol ... watched the Lions lose again (0.00 / 0)
... must have been thinking about Barry instead of Bernie. Thank goodness I'm a Giants fan.

[ Parent ]
What's the rub? (0.00 / 0)
So what's the take home messager here? "I told you so", or "be afraid, be very afraid."

Perhaps both.


Hopefully, the message is (0.00 / 0)
Let's look at this from a more quantifiable perspective, and see what we come up with. At least, that is what I was going for.

[ Parent ]
that doesn't seem like a message. (0.00 / 0)
A message would be, "Obama is going to implement centrist policies." But you wouldn't be able to substantiate that since, by all accounts, we are in for some pretty liberal policies. So, what's your point? It isn't clear. Also, is Obama a member of any of these centrist organizations? He tried pretty hard to get away from the DLC membership list as one poster notes above. If he isn't a member, and fought them listing him as a member, he seems odd that he'd then carry their water. You're indicting him but there's no crime.

[ Parent ]
Show me the "liberal policies"! (0.00 / 0)
bigassbrando. Where are they?

"It sounds wrong...
     ...but its right."


[ Parent ]
I'll say broadly that the house will be to the left of the Obama admin and the Senate to the right. (4.00 / 1)
That would make Obama right of congress as a numbers game, but that's just because the house has 435 members and the Senate has 100. Plus Senators have broader constituencies.

And since the houses of congress both carry weight it should be obvious that a white house can't dismiss one, it has to balance both.

The whole "who is affiliated with who" shit is nonsense. The real key is how Obama plans to sell legislation. Does he compromise and give a moderate senate things they can get broad support on? Does he try to use his activist machine to strongarm the house? Or does he go a different way and strong arm the senate dems into house approved progressive legislation.

We'll find out.


Accurate data is never a bad thing (0.00 / 0)


[ Parent ]
this exercise seems rather incomprehensible. (0.00 / 0)
I'm not sure what you're attempting to prove. We don't like the DLC and the New Way Dems, why? Because of their policies. If you have a fear that Obama is like them, why not just point to his policies that you don't like? You don't like the green jobs? Expanding health care? Massive infrastructure spending? Him saying he wants out of Iraq in a year and a half? What exactly is your beef on substance?

Extremely vauge (0.00 / 0)
Tom Daschle spoke at DLC events, but he was never officially a member of the New Democratic Coalition in the Senate and he has also spoken at Center for American Progress and other progressive groups. So which is he? Same with Richardson.

Hillary Clinton, Ken Salazar, Emanuel, Vilsack and vaguely Napolitano are "DLCers". That's about the makeup of Congress.

Hilda Solis, Steven Chu, Peter Orszag, Eric Holder and to some extent Lisa Jackson are "Progressives" again about the makeup of Congress.

Add in the Republicans and loosely defined DLCers and you get closer to the 38 percent mark.

I will grant you that the remaining members who are not identified closely with either group probably lean more towards the DLC side. So yes, Obama's cabinet is probably slightly to the right of the Democratic caucus, but as you pointed out we've got only ourselfs to blame for that.  

John McCain: Beacuse lobbyists should have more power


hiya Populista (4.00 / 1)
long time, no see. Hope you're doing well.

[ Parent ]
Iraq war Supporter vs Opponent list (0.00 / 0)
Chris, I think we should compile of list of positions/votes taken/made by mebers of Obama's team on the invasion of Iraq.

Here is my list so far:


Supporter or voted for the war:

Vice President: - Joe Biden
Secretary of State - Hillary Clinton
Secretary of Health & Human Services - Tom Daschle
Secretary of Commerce - Bill Richardson
Secretary of Transportation -Ray LaHood
Chief of Staff - Rahm Emanuel

Opposed or voted against the war:
President - Barack Obama
Secretary of Labor -Hilda Solis

Not (yet) known:
Secretary of Treasury - Timothy Geithner
Secretary of Defense - Robert Gates
Attorney General - Eric Holder
Ambassador to the United Nations - Susan Rice
Secretary of Homeland Security - Janet Napolitano
Secretary of Veteran's Affairs - Eric Shinseki
Secretary of Agriculture -Tom Vilsack
Secretary of Education -Arne Duncan
Secretary of Energy -Steven Chu
Secretary of Housing & Urban Development -Shaun Donovan
Secretary of Interior -Ken Salazar


It'll be informative to complete this list as much as possible.

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