Analysts on the Jewell Appointment

By The NewsHour, The NewsHour - February 6, 2013

President Obama named Recreational Equipment Inc. executive Sally Jewell to replace Ken Salazar as Secretary of the Interior. Gwen Ifill talks to National Journal's Coral Davenport, Greg Ip of The Economist and Julie Rovner from NPR about the appointment and remaining Cabinet vacancies at the start of the president's new term.

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GWEN IFILL: President Obama made his latest Cabinet selection today, but the senior ranks of his administration are still depleted as his second term begins.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Sally spent the majority of her career outside of Washington, where, I might add, the majority of our interior is located.

She is an expert on the energy and climate issues that are going to shape our future.

GWEN IFILL: Sally Jewell, CEO of the outdoor recreation company REI, is President Obama's pick for interior secretary, succeeding former Colorado Senator Ken Salazar.

Unlike other members of the president's Cabinet, Jewell comes to the job entirely without Washington experience, with a background in business and as an oil industry engineer. She said she is humbled by the opportunity.

SALLY JEWELL, Interior Secretary-Designate: I have a great job at REI today, but there's no role that compares than the call to serve my country as secretary of the Department of Interior.

GWEN IFILL: Jewell is only the fourth publicly announced nominee to fill 11 second-term Cabinet-level vacancies -- the major departures so far: Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Only Clinton's replacement, John Kerry, has won Senate confirmation and taken up his new post. The national security team moves one step closer to completion with tomorrow's hearing for CIA nominee John Brennan.

The president's environmental and energy team will be completely remade. In addition to Salazar's exit at Interior, Lisa Jackson is leaving as Environmental Protection Agency chief, as is energy Secretary Steven Chu, with no replacements announced yet. And Mr. Obama's economic team will also have new faces, as he moves to replace Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, Trade Representative Ron Kirk and Rebecca Blank, the interim commerce secretary.

Critical issues await them, from action on climate change, to the Keystone XL oil pipeline, to negotiations on new trade agreements with a dozen nations and the European Union.

The president set the tone for the selections to come with his description of Jewell today.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: She knows the link between conservation and good jobs. She knows that there's no contradiction between being good stewards of the land and our economic progress, that, in fact, those two things need to go hand-in-hand.

GWEN IFILL: The immediate response to Jewell's nomination was positive from business and environmental groups alike.

We get more now on the president's second-term Cabinet and the issues they will face from Coral Davenport, energy and environment correspondent for National Journal, Greg Ip, U.S. economics editor for The Economist, and Julie Rovner, health policy correspondent for National Public Radio.

You each cover different parts of this administration, different parts of the government.

Starting with you and with the selection today of Sally Jewell, Coral, what are the big issues which await the new nominee or the new secretary?

CORAL DAVENPORT, National Journal: So the secretary of interior is a really important position in terms of the administration's energy plan going forward.

The Interior Department is in charge of the nation's public lands and also offshore. So whatever happens going forward on energy development on public lands, on oil and gas developments, on offshore oil development, on conservation, and something that this administration has started was the first administration to do renewable energy development on public lands.

The interior secretary is going to oversee all of that, and it's going to be a big piece of the environmental agenda, but also the economic agenda, in terms of how energy development is going to be a part of the economy going forward.

GWEN IFILL: Well, let's talk about the economic agenda. What awaits there, Greg?

GREG IP, The Economist: Well, it's pretty much going to be all budget, all fiscal all the time, at least for the first year.

You know, presidents choose treasury secretaries, and indeed their economic team, to suit the circumstances of the time. So, Tim Geithner was the pick four years ago in part because he was so well suited to deal with the financial crisis.

So, now Obama goes with Jack Lew, a guy whose background is heavily steeped in the minutia of budget-making and of negotiating with the Hill. He has got the confidence of the president. He knows his way in and out of these issues. He shares the president's philosophical preferences -- protect the social safety net, deal with the deficit, but not sacrificing that safety net.

The big challenge for Mr. Obama and for Mr. Lew is that getting something done will require coming to agreement with Congress, and there, the philosophical divide is so wide, that that makes getting something done very challenging.

GWEN IFILL: Well, part of the philosophical divide that is widest is health care. This is the time when the rubber hits the road in terms of implementation. This is a Cabinet member who is not leaving, Kathleen Sebelius, Julie.

JULIE ROVNER, National Public Radio: That's right.

And I think one of the reasons she has job security is because we have seen with some of these Cabinet members who -- prospective Cabinet members who have been appointed difficulties in getting confirmed. Can you just imagine the idea of trying to confirm a new health and human services secretary?

There has not been a head of the -- one of the sub-Cabinet appointments in HHS, the head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, since 2006, in the middle of the -- Bush's second term, because it is so difficult to get that through the Senate. So, it would be hard to imagine trying to replace Kathleen Sebelius, which is probably a good thing, because she has so much to do this year, getting the Affordable Care Act up and running, most of it, in time for Jan. 1, 2014, plus all of these budget debates that are going on to inevitably have to do with Medicare and Medicaid.

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