The Cabinet

The Cabinet includes the vice president and the heads of 15 executive departments, as well as cabinet-level officials such as the Chief of Staff and the Head of the Office of Management and Budget. Cabinet members can play an important role in helping the president to make and execute policy. Individual members of Cabinet can act as key policy advisers with senior cabinet positions such as the Secretaries of State and Treasury often having a major impact on policy. They can form part of a president's inner circle alongside other key advisers.

As a collective group the Cabinet has very limited power, however, with a limited number of meetings taking place each year. Its main influence lies with key individuals in the Cabinet. Under the Obama presidency, John Kerry as Secretary of State took a central role in developing foreign policy alongside the president. He worked on the Israeli-Palestine peace accords, having visited 11 times in just over a year in 2013/14 as well as taking a key role on approaches to Syria. The Cabinet has no constitutional status that would allow it to control policy and it cannot claim any kind of national mandate with a right to govern. As such the president has the final say on executive policy, with Cabinet members serving at the president's pleasure. Presidents may sideline individual members and seek advice and support from elsewhere. Often, advisers from EXOP (discussed below) who are closest to the president are the most influential figures. Much depends on the individual president, however. While Cabinet members have a great deal of authority, it is the president who can determine who to work with most closely.

The vice president is a case in point. While they are a member of the Cabinet, their main power lies with their ability to influence

presidential thinking. The last three Vice Presidents — Pence, Biden and Cheney — have all been seen as influential members of the president's inner circle. Biden said that he was 'the last guy in the room, suggesting a closeness to the president that others did not have. In addition, he was used to draft gun legislation, an issue that Obama felt strongly about. The vice president has no guarantee of political influence, however. There is no constitutional requirement for a president to listen. Arguably the most significant constitutional role of the vice president is to be next in line to the president.