Four Cabinet spots still open in the Trump administration | TheHill – The Hill

With less than a month before the inauguration, President-elect Donald TrumpDonald TrumpRoberts praises district judges in annual report Stein blasts Trump’s New Year’s tweet 9 important criminal justice stories of 2016 MORE’s Cabinet still has four major spots waiting to be filled. 

Trump has picked most of his top Cabinet nominees already. But outside groups are getting restless as they wait to see who will lead the Departments of Agriculture and Veterans Affairs, as well as the U.S. Trade Representative’s office and the Council of Economic Advisers. 

Here’s a look at the leading candidates for those open spots. 

Secretary of Agriculture

The race for Agriculture is heating up, with the president-elect entertaining a handful of potential candidates this week. 

On Wednesday, Trump met with former Texas A&M University President Elsa Murano and former California Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado. Both are under consideration for the spot. 

Murano knows her way around the department—she spent three years as President George W. Bush’s Undersecretary of Agriculture for Food Safety.  

And Maldonado helps to run his family’s farm in California.  

Either candidate would become Trump’s first Hispanic addition to the Cabinet, an absence that has grown more obvious as more Cabinet spots have been filled. The National Association of Latino and Elected and Appointed Officials warned Trump this month that the lack of a Hispanic member of the cabinet would be a “historic step backwards.”

There are others in the mix too, including Texans Sid Miller, Susan Combs and former Rep. Henry Bonilla. All three met with Trump Friday at his Florida estate. 

Miller, the state’s current Agriculture Commissioner, has faced his share of controversies—most recently retweeting a vulgar insult about Hillary ClintonHillary Rodham ClintonStein blasts Trump’s New Year’s tweet 10 celebrities who could run for office Top 10 twists of the GOP Congress MORE

Combs is the former Texas Comptroller and Agriculture Commissioner. Combs worked in Energy Secretary-designate Rick Perry’s administration when Perry was governor.  

While North Dakota Democratic Sen. Heidi HeitkampHeidi HeitkampFour Cabinet spots still open in the Trump administration Who Trump is meeting with Wednesday Congress asserts itself MORE has met with Trump about the post, she said in a statement last week that she’d “likely” remain in the Senate. 

It’s also possible that Trump draws from his Agriculture advisory team for the spot. He met with former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue last month in New York, while various reports have named former Georgia Gov. Dave Heineman, and Chuck Connor, the CEO of the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives who served as interim Agriculture Secretary briefly under President George W. Bush, as prospective nominees.  

United States Trade Representative 

Given Trump’s emphasis on an “America First” trade policy during the campaign, his pick for the Cabinet-level USTR is being carefully watched.  

Campaign officials confirmed earlier this month that Trump is considering Jovita Carranza, who has experience in President George W. Bush’s Small Business Administration.

Carranza was a member of Trump’s National Hispanic Council and worked at UPS before opening a consulting firm. She met with Trump at his Florida estate shortly before Christmas. 

Dan DiMicco and Robert Lighthizer have also been floated as potential picks. Both are helping to coordinate the incoming administration’s USTR transition as members of what’s called the “landing team.”  

DiMicco advised Trump on trade issues through the campaign and is the former chair of the steel company Nucor. And Lighthizer has hands-on experience in the USTR’s office, serving as a deputy under President Reagan.

Veterans Affairs

A whole host of names have been floated for the spot to lead the VA, which could receive a major shakeup under the Trump administration.  

Businessman, Army veteran and former Central American Chamber of Commerce head Luis Quiñonez met with Trump earlier this month to discuss the role. 

Bloomberg reported that Cleveland Clinic CEO Toby Cosgrove, who withdrew from consideration to head the department under President Obama, is also a top contender for the post.  

And The New York Times reported this month that Trump is considering U.S. Navy Admiral Michelle Howard, the leader of Navy forces in Europe. Howard is the first woman to become a four-star admiral in the Navy, as well as the first African-American woman to command a Navy ship. 

The president-elect has considered Fox News contributors and analysts for other posts in his administration, and the VA is no exception. 

Former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown told Fox News earlier this month that he is being “considered” for the role. Brown, an Army National Guard veteran, a contributor to the network, was one of Trump’s earlier supporters during the primary. 

Reporters have also pointed to Fox contributor Pete Hegseth as another potential candidate. 

Hegseth previously ran a veterans advocacy group and served in both Iraq and Afghanistan, where he won the Bronze Star. The Fox News regular visited Trump Tower in New York this month to meet with Trump. 

Trump made healthcare for veterans a major focus of his campaign, and his transition is already floating some major changes to be enacted by the new VA secretary. 

A senior transition official told reporters this week that Trump is discussing reforming the VA to give veterans a “public-private” option, although no decision has been made as of yet.  

Council of Economic Advisers 

It appears that the race to lead the Council, a three-member group that advises the president on economic issues, is between the frontrunner and the rest of the field.  

The leading pick is Larry Kudlow, the former CNBC host and associate director at the Reagan administration’s Office of Management and Budget. 

Speculation about Kudlow reached new heights earlier this month when Stephen Moore, the economist who helped advise Trump during the campaign, told a Michigan regional chamber of commerce that Kudlow would be appointed “within the next 48 hours,” according to the Detroit News. 

Kudlow is the only name that has been seriously floated for the position. While no appointment has been announced, he’s seen as the odds-on favorite. 

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