Energy secretary is generally one of the last Cabinet positions to be filled by presidents-elect, or so it’s been since Ronald Reagan was staffing up in 1980. Energy, Interior, Transportation: For the last five people headed to the White House for the first time, these were low on the priority list. On average, they came shortly before Christmas.
With his announcement that, indeed, Rick Perry would be selected to run the agency that he forgot he wanted to destroy four years ago, Donald Trump has picked someone to run Energy sooner than any of the five previous presidents. Same goes for Interior, too, picking Rep. Ryan Zinke on Tuesday. And his Transportation pick, Elaine Chao, was announced nearly two weeks before any prior nominee since 1980.
Far from the initial (and very limited) hand-wringing about the slow pace of Trump’s transition, he’s been on a tear. From 1980 to 2008, the greatest number of Cabinet nominees announced by Dec. 14 of the election year was nine, by Barack Obama. Trump’s already named 11. Along with the three departments above, his picks for Commerce, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development and Justice were all the quickest since 1980.
(George W. Bush was slower than most presidents-elect to identify Cabinet members for the simple reason that he didn’t become president-elect until mid-December. By this point, he’d named zero nominees; he’d also been president-elect for just about 24 hours.)
The order of Trump’s picks is also a bit unorthodox. The first four picks since 1980, on average, have been Treasury, State, Justice and Commerce. Trump’s first four were Justice, Education, HHS and Transportation (with Commerce and Treasury coming later that same day).
What does this tell us? It tells us that Trump will likely be done with all of his picks by the end of the month.
All he’s got left to decide on? Agriculture, Labor and Veterans Affairs. George H.W. Bush made his last pick a little over a week before his inauguration. If Trump would like to push out his Ag pick for another month in order to let the public know how he’ll avoid conflicts of interest, that seems like a trade most people would accept.
(c) 2016, The Washington Post · Philip Bump