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Biden’s Cabinet hasn’t changed, a sharp break from Trump

Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

 (CNN) — When President Joe Biden met with senior members of his administration on Tuesday, the 24 officials sitting around the table were identical to the ones Biden gathered 17 months ago for his first Cabinet meeting.

There has been zero turnover among the secretaries, administrators and directors that form the official Cabinet, a level of consistency representing a sharp departure from Biden’s predecessor Donald Trump, who had already lost three Cabinet officials at this point in his presidency.

Biden could still choose to make changes around the two-year mark of his term, a traditional point for presidents to rethink their teams. But for now, the level of stability among the highest ranks of Biden’s administration is a signal of his desire to bring a sense of order to a federal government tinged with chaos during Trump’s tenure.

It also reflects a reluctance to shake up his team, despite calls at various points to dismiss members of his administration. Biden has refrained from firing or asking for the resignation of any members of his Cabinet, and sought to lock in his senior team months ahead of this year’s midterms.

Officials have said changes are possible both to the President’s Cabinet and his senior White House staff later this year, though no moves are guaranteed. The halfway mark in a president’s term often serves as a natural point to shift assignments or make adjustments, particularly if the makeup of Congress is altered in the midterm elections.

Already, Biden has made staffing adjustments in the West Wing in anticipation of Republicans taking control of the House of Representatives, including adding lawyers and communication aides to help confront what could be an onslaught of GOP-led oversight investigations.

Some top officials, like Covid adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci, are preparing to leave soon. Climate envoy John Kerry has told CNN he plans to stay in the administration at least until the next major international climate summit in November — without indicating whether he’ll stay longer. And Biden recently appointed a seasoned veteran of Democratic White Houses, John Podesta, to serve as his climate adviser.

But atop the federal government’s constellation of departments and agencies, the team Biden first convened in early 2021 remains firmly in place.

“It’s good for all of us to be here together,” Biden said at the start of his Cabinet meeting. “Over the past 10 months, we’ve won passage of some, I think, extraordinary parts of our economic agenda.”

It wasn’t always so optimistic. Biden struggled for most of the past year to advance that agenda. Paired with rising inflation and the lingering pandemic, his approval ratings plummeted.

That led to soul-searching among Democrats, including some who questioned whether Biden had the right people in place to help advance his vision. Sen. Joe Manchin, the West Virginia Democrat who was a holdout in advancing Biden’s economic vision, openly complained about White House staff.

As is typical in any White House, there have been some tensions between the West Wing and certain Cabinet agencies, including over handling the pandemic and taming runaway inflation.

For the most part, however, Biden has kept any disagreements or disputes from spilling over into the kind of dysfunction that often plagued Trump’s team.

On Tuesday, Biden didn’t call on members of his Cabinet to address reporters, as Trump did during his quarterly Cabinet meetings. Often, those sessions turned into tributes to Trump’s leadership as officials took turns praising their boss.

Beneath the praise, however, was a distinct absence of job security. At this point in Trump’s administration, he had already lost three Cabinet officials: his secretaries of HealthState and Veterans Affairs. He had moved another — Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly — to chief of staff after firing his first top aide Reince Priebus.

Before closing out his second year in office, Trump would go on to lose three additional Cabinet officials, including his attorney general, Defense secretary and Interior secretary.

By comparison, Biden has kept his Cabinet entirely intact.

“I’m satisfied with the team,” Biden told reporters earlier this year.

There has been turnover among his senior staff, including in top West Wing positions. His press secretary, White House counsel and senior adviser for public engagement all left earlier this year. Some officials decided to leave the White House around the one-year mark of the administration, while others departed at the start of summer.

That has traditionally been a time when top officials rotate in and out of the West Wing. There was an internal push by White House chief of staff Ron Klain to finalize Biden’s senior team before July 4 in preparation for a heated political season, officials said.

Close Biden communications adviser Anita Dunn returned to the White House in May. Along with Klain, Biden’s close-knit inner circle of advisers — including senior advisers Mike Donilon and Steve Ricchetti, deputy chiefs of staff Bruce Reed and Jen O’Malley Dillon and communications director Kate Bedingfield — remains intact.

When Bedingfield announced she was leaving earlier this summer, she abruptly changed her mind a few days later, saying “after much thought, discussion and reflection, I’ve decided to stay.”

Biden’s first year turnover “was one of the lowest of the past six administrations and may reflect the influence of experience and a professional transition operation,” wrote Kathryn Dunn Tenpas, a non-resident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution who tracks the issue.

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