MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — On Tuesday, the Senate will begin its confirmation hearings for President-elect Donald Trump’s Cabinet picks. Up first are the nominees for attorney general and secretary of homeland security. Four committees meet on Wednesday and another five on Thursday.
So, what is the process for confirming Cabinet picks? Good Question.
Before the nominees even get to the Senate, they must go through some intense vetting by the FBI and White House. There’s a background check, financial disclosure statements and investigations by the Office of Governmental Ethics. The OGE has said it hasn’t completed the reviews of some of the nominees before their scheduled hearings. Some Democrats say this is deeply concerning, while Republican leaders say the reviews will be finished in time.
The last time the Senate denied a Cabinet confirmation was Texas Sen. John Tower for the secretary of defense in 1989.
“A lot of times these confirmation hearings are relatively pro forma, relatively simple at the beginning of a presidency,” says David Schultz, a professor of political science at Hamline University. “Usually nominees don’t get to that point, if there’s a controversy, the president withdraws the nomination.”
There are 1,212 posts that require Senate confirmation. They include Cabinet and agency heads as well as many deputies. Agencies include Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Management & Budget, U.S. Trade Representative, U.S. Mission to the United Nations, Council of Economic Advisers and the Small Business Administration. Advisors to the president and the president’s chief of staff do not require Senate confirmation.
Not all nominees get full-blown hearings and many get them after the president is in office.
First, a nominee takes questions from a Senate committee during a hearing. For example, the Senate finance committee handles the Treasury Department nominees and the judiciary committee handles the attorney general’s office nominees.
How long the hearing last will depend on the level of controversy over the nominee.
The committee can effectively kill the appointment or send it to the full Senate once the president is in office. Confirmation requires the vote of a simple majority of senators. Right now, there are 52 Republicans in the Senate.
“Often times presidents don’t have their entire cabinet in place before they take office,” says Schultz. “Sometimes it can take several months to be able to do that.”