The topic of discussion for this Constitution Monday comes from Article II, Section 2, Clause 1: "[The President] may require the Opinion, in writing, of the principal Officer in each of the executive Departments, upon any Subject relating to the Duties of their respective Offices…." This clause is known as the "Opinion Clause" and means that the President has the right to know the details of the actions performed by those under his direction.
"This provision is the basis for the President's `cabinet' system. This term - principal officers - has been interpreted to mean the heads of major departments. When these are called into meetings once or twice a week, they constitute what has come to be known as the `Cabinet.' They meet in a room of the White House called the `Cabinet room,' which is adjacent to the Oval Office.
"Members of the Cabinet have two responsibilities: 1) Individually, to administer the affairs of major departments.
2) Collectively, to serve as an advisory council to the President.
"The President is not compelled to take the advice of his Cabinet…." (W. Cleon Skousen, The Making of America - The Substance and Meaning of the Constitution, p. 541.)
"The Opinion Clause arose out of the debates at the Constitutional Convention regarding whether the American President would exercise executive authority singly or in concert with other officials or privy councilors….
"As a result of the debates over the Opinion Clause and a privy council, the Constitution nowhere requires a formal Cabinet. President George Washington found it prudent to organize his principal officers into a Cabinet, and it has been part of the executive branch structure ever since….
"Recent Cabinets have grown unwieldy for effective deliberations with up to twenty-five members…. President Ronald Reagan formed seven subcabinet councils to review many policy issues, and subsequent Presidents have followed that practice. But most recent Presidents have met infrequently with their entire Cabinets….
"A Cabinet that has no constitutional blessing may actually make it a more valuable tool than one constrained by constitutional design. There is more flexibility in the President's choice of which officers and councilors should be included. Moreover, a Cabinet that meets at the pleasure of the President will naturally be more mindful to serve his interests rather than their own or those of their departments. Thus, the Framers increased the likelihood that the President will obtain useful advice from his principal officers by leaving the advice structure entirely to his discretion." (Todd Gaziano, The Heritage Guide to the Constitution, pp. 201-202.)