Although President Obama has nominated candidates to fill some of the most high-profile positions in his Cabinet—Treasury secretary, Defense secretary, secretary of State—quite a few second-term question marks remain. Here's a look at which positions are open and the leading contenders to fill them:
- Commerce Secretary. The Commerce Department has been run by an acting secretary ever since John Bryson resigned this summer. Penny Pritzker, a hotel heiress and mega-bundler for Obama, surfaced in the Chicago Sun-Times as the top choice for the Commerce job, one that has been marred by bad luck for its holder for years. Bloomberg reported that Obama is close to choosing Pritzker for the job.
- Energy Secretary. Steven Chu said he will step down as secretary sometime after this month. Obama is considering nominating nuclear physicist Ernest Moniz, Reuters reports. Moniz served as undersecretary of the Energy Department during the Clinton administration and is currently director of MIT's Energy Initiative. The list of potential candidates to succeed Chu includes Deputy Secretary of Energy Daniel Poneman, hedge-fund founder Tom Steyer, former Sen. Byron Dorgan, and former Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire.
- Environmental Protection Agency Administrator. Former EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson announced her departure in December and will leave after the president’s Feb. 12 State of the Union address. Gina McCarthy, assistant administrator for EPA's Office of Air and Radiation, has emerged as a top contender in recent days. Other possibilities include Bob Perciasepe, the deputy administrator, and Christine Gregoire.
- Labor Secretary. Colorado Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia is the top pick for the job previously held by Hilda Solis, according to Reuters. Ed Montgomery, an economist and the dean of Georgetown University’s Public Policy Institute, is also being considered, according to The Washington Post. Montgomery served in a variety of roles during the Clinton administration. Former two-term Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm appears to be in the mix. And the Post also reports that some Labor Department employees are wondering if acting Labor secretary Seth Harris could be in the running, as well, but said earlier that Tom Perez, assistant attorney general for civil rights, was the top candidate.
- Small Business Administrator. Karen Mills's deputy, Marie Johns, has already taken herself out of the running for the job, The Washington Post reports. Mills came to the job from a private-equity firm; a successor may be similarly experienced in the business world.
- Trade Representative. Ron Kirk will step down in late February. Jeffrey Zients, the acting director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, is the leading contender to replace him, according to the Financial Times. Lael Brainard, Treasury undersecretary for international affairs, and Fred Hochberg, head of the Export-Import Bank, are mentioned as candidates as well.
- Transportation Secretary. Deborah Hersman, the Democratic head of the National Transportation Safety Board, has emerged as a leading candidate to fill the post when Ray LaHood steps down, The Wall Street Journal reports. Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa had been considered a top contender, but he said in a recent statement that although he’s been “flattered and humbled” by speculation that he’d join Obama’s Cabinet, “I am firmly committed to remaining in L.A. and finishing my term.” His term is up on June 30. Another candidate, former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, similarly took himself out of the running.
- White House Office of Management and Budget Director. Sylvia Mathews Burwell, who heads the Walmart Foundation, is the top candidate for OMB director, according to CNN Money. She has D.C. experience: Burwell served as OMB’s deputy director during the Clinton administration, and was Clinton’s deputy chief of staff and chief of staff to then-Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin.