Obama looks to fill out Cabinet

With nominations for a new defense and foreign-policy team set, President Obama can now focus on revamping the rest of his second-term Cabinet.

Major changes are in store for Obama’s economic and energy teams as well as a host of other Cabinet-level positions, with more announcements coming as early as this week.

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White House press secretary Jay Carney on Monday indicated Obama was discussing openings with a “diverse” set of candidates, and that he did not have a “uniform” process for picking new Cabinet nominees.

“It's very important for any president to have, you know, time and space to consider his or her nominees for these important positions," Carney said.

Finding a successor for Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner remains the final marquee appointment, and Obama is reportedly torn between two possible candidates.

Jack Lew, Obama's current chief of staff, is thought to be the favorite. Lew has served as budget director for two administrations, has deep roots to the Democratic establishment and has been an integral part of Obama's fiscal talks with congressional Republicans — who aren’t all fond of him.

American Express chief executive Kenneth Chenault is also under consideration, according to reports. Chenault was active in meetings at the White House to discuss the “fiscal cliff” and serves on the President's Council on Jobs and Competitiveness.

Obama said last month during an interview with Bloomberg that he would like to bring a business leader into the fold.

“Not only is it something I’m considering, I’d love to do it,” the president said. “It’s something I would have loved to have done in the first term.”

Lew is expected to leave the West Wing whether he replaces Geithner or not, meaning he’ll also have to be replaced.

Former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) has been floated as one possible successor. Other favorites include Ron Klain, the former chief of staff to Vice President Biden and former Vice President Gore; and Tom Nides, a deputy secretary of State and longtime congressional staffer.

The president could also look to appoint a female chief of staff — a historic pick, and one that could help provide gender balance to his administration after the retirement of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. On Monday, Carney indicated that while gender would not be the deciding factor, the president believed in “casting a broader net.”

“The president does believe that diversity is very important, and he also believes that picking the absolute right person for each job is very important,” Carney said.

Deputy chief of staffs Nancy-Ann DeParle and Alyssa Mastromonaco both are thought to have the trust and admiration of the president, and could be front-runners for the post.

The Commerce Department has been led by Rebecca Blank on an acting basis since last summer, when John Bryson resigned following a seizure that resulted in two hit-and-run accidents.

Xerox chief executive Ursula Burns, who like Chenault is a veteran of the president's Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, is thought to be under consideration and could be a particularly attractive pick if the president is concerned about diversity.

Other possibilities for the post include Ron Kirk, the current U.S. Trade Representative and former Dallas mayor; and Fred Hochberg, the director of the Export-Import Bank.

Hochberg is the former president of Lillian Vernon, giving him private-sector bona fides. He is also openly gay — a move that could shore up support for Obama after the nomination of Hagel, who was criticized for comments about homosexuality he made in the 1990s.

Karen Mills, the current administrator of the Small Business Administration, could also be under consideration for the post.

The resignation of EPA administrator Lisa Jackson has opened a search for the country's top green job, and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer has reported that the White House has reached out to outgoing Washington state Gov. Christine Gregoire to gauge her interest.

Heather Zichal, the White House's top energy and climate adviser, could also be a front-runner for the position, and is thought to have the support of some environmental groups.

Secretary Ray LaHood had previously indicated that he did not intend to stay into President Obama's second term, but told Politico last month that he would discuss his future with the president after the "fiscal-cliff" negotiations.

Obama is expected to pressure LaHood to stay onboard, but if he ultimately opts to leave, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa could be a contender for the job. Villaraigosa chaired the Democratic National Convention last year and worked as a surrogate during the president's reelection campaign.

Secretary Steven Chu is likely to retire, and the Energy Department post could be a tough one to fill, given political fights over the department’s loan programs highlighted by the Solyndra controversy.

Tom Steyer, a top Democratic donor and head of Farallon Capital Management, a multibillion-dollar hedge fund, has emerged as one of the early favorites to replace Chu. Steyer bankrolled sustainable energy programs at Yale and Stanford and was a major donor in the fight to preserve California's green energy regulations.

Other candidates include John Podesta, Obama's 2008 transition team leader, former Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter, and Susan Tierney, an assistant secretary of Energy policy in the Clinton administration. Former Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) is well-liked on Capitol Hill, but supports natural gas “fracking” — a controversial technique opposed by many environmental activists.