How is a cabinet secretary confirmed?

How Is a Cabinet Secretary Confirmed?


  • The POWER of appointment is vested in the President by the Constitution. Under this provision, there are two kinds of presidential appointments:
  • appointments made during the session of Congress or the so-called regular appointments or nominations, and appointments made during the recess of Congress which are also known as ad interim appointments.
  • The regular appointments which are contemplated under the first paragraph of Article VII, Section 16 of the 1987 Constitution go through the following stages:
  • ·         nomination
  • ·         consent
  • ·         appointment
  • ·         acceptance by the nominee

What the President sends to the Commission is just a nomination. After the Commission has given its consent, the President issues the appointment. It is only when the last stage has been completed may the officer concerned take his oath of office.

The second paragraph of Article VII, Sec. 16, of the 1987 Constitution also empowers the President to issue appointments while Congress is not in session. Such appointments are called ad interim appointments, and it goes through the following stages:

·         appointment

·         confirmation

An ad interim appointment is permanent in nature and takes effect immediately. Thus, one who was issued an ad interim appointment may immediately enter upon the discharge of his functions.

An ad interim appointment ceases to be valid upon disapproval by the Commission on Appointments or, if not confirmed, until the next adjournment of Congress.


Under Section 16, Article VII of the 1987 Constitution, there are two classes of public officers whose appointments need confirmation. These are:  

The heads of the executive departments, ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls, officers of the armed forces from the rank of colonel or naval captain; and

other officers whose appointments are vested in the President under the 1987 Constitution. The officers referred to under this provisions are: the Chairman and Members of Constitutional Commission such as the Commission on Elections, the Commission on Audit and the Civil Service Commission; the regular members of the Judicial and Bar Council.


How Is a Cabinet Secretary Confirmed?

The Confirmation Process for Presidential Appointees

Americans tend to think of their president as the most powerful person in the world, but the Constitution limits the power of all three branches of government—the president as well as the Congress and the federal courts.

In the case of filling top positions in the executive and judicial branches, the Constitution divides responsibility between the president and the Senate. Article II, Section 2 empowers the president to nominate and—“by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate”—to appoint principal officers such as department heads as well as subordinate ones such as deputies.

  • The process of the president’s nomination of Cabinet secretaries, and the Senate’s confirmation of them, is perhaps best known to the public but still somewhat mysterious.
  • Steps in the Process
  • The Congressional Research Service, which studies and analyzes legislative matters for members of the Senate and House, breaks it down this way:
  • First, the White House selects a prospective appointee and sends a formal nomination to the Senate.
  • Second, the Senate determines whether to confirm the nomination.
  • Third, the president presents a signed commission to the successful nominee and he or she is sworn in, assuming authority to carry out the duties of the office.
  • The appointments clause of the Constitution specifies that the president

shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the supreme Court, and all other Officers of the United States, whose Appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by Law.

In the case of Cabinet secretaries and other appointees requiring Senate confirmation, the White House personnel office (or a president-elect’s transition team in the case of an incoming administration) preliminarily selects and vets a prospective appointee before sending a formal nomination to the Senate.

Judicial Nominations

The Constitution empowers the president to appoint federal judges, most of which sit on either a U.S. District Court (with 673 judgeships) or a Circuit Court of Appeals (with 179 judgeships).

Nominations to fill judicial openings are subject to confirmation by the Senate after being reviewed by that chamber’s Judiciary Committee, which also holds hearings. A president’s most visible, and consequential, judicial nominations occur when a seat opens on the Supreme Court.

Appointment confirmation process

From Ballotpedia

All presidential appointments with Senate confirmation (PAS) must follow the appointment confirmation process before taking office. The number of PAS positions varies by presidency but typically includes all executive department secretaries, undersecretaries, inspectors general and numerous other positions depending on the department.

Other positions requiring confirmation can include positions in independent agencies and commissions.[1] In total, there are between 1,200 and 1,400 PAS positions.[2] The full list of positions for each presidency can be found in the corresponding United States Government Policy and Supporting Positions, commonly referred to as the Plum Book.

See also:  Emperor of the united states?


For a detailed guide to the confirmation process of Donald Trump's Cabinet nominees, click here.

See also: Advice and Consent

Before any nominations are made, the White House Office of Presidential Personnel vets a list of candidates, including suggestions provided by members of Congress and special interest groups.

[4] A chosen nominee then must pass through a series of investigations by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Internal Revenue Service, the Office of Government Ethics and an ethics official from the agency to which the position is assigned.

[4] The nominee must also fill out the Public Financial Disclosure Report and questionnaires related to his or her background check.

The process begins when the president provides a written nomination to the Senate, where it is read on the floor and assigned a number.[1] This starts the Senate's procedure of “Advice and Consent” laid out in Article II of the U.S. Constitution for the appointment of high ranking officials by the president.[1]

Committee hearings

The nomination is passed to the Senate committee with jurisdiction over the appointed position. Some PAS positions require a joint hearing of two or more committees.[1] Committee hearings allow a close examination of the nominee, looking for partisanship and views on public policy.

They can also summon supporters and opponents to testify. Committees are permitted to conduct their own investigations into the nominees, as they are not always provided with the information gathered by the White House's investigation.

[1][4] Once committee hearings are closed, most committees have a set amount of time before a vote is taken on whether the nominee is reported to the Senate favorably, unfavorably or without recommendation.[1] They also have the option not to take action on the nominee.

If action is taken, the committee notifies the executive clerk. The nomination is then given a number and added to the Executive Calendar of the Senate.[1]

Only one cabinet position since 1945 has been confirmed by the Senate after being reported as unfavorable by a committee. Henry A. Wallace was confirmed by the Senate by a vote of 56-32 to become the secretary of commerce on March 1, 1945.[5][6]

Committee jurisdictions

The following table outlines jurisdiction of the Senate committees in terms of the presidential appointment confirmation process. The left column indicates the Senate committee, and the right indicates the federal departments and administrations over which the committee has jurisdiction. For more information on each committee, follow the link in the left column.

Jurisdictions of Senate committees in presidential appointment confirmation
U.S. Senate committee


Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry U.S. Department of Agriculture
Armed Services U.S. Department of Defense
Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs U.S. Department of Housing and Urban DevelopmentSecurities and Exchange CommissionHeads of Federal Banking institutions (e.g., FDIC)
Budget All issues concerning the Budget (e.g., tax revenues, government expenditures)
Commerce, Science, and Transportation U.S. Department of TransportationFederal Trade CommissionU.S. Department of CommerceU.S. Department of Homeland Security's Under Secretary for Science and TechnologyFederal Communications Commission
Energy and Natural Resources U.S. Department of EnergyU.S. Department of the InteriorU.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Environment and Public Works Oversight in any issue concerning the environment, public works, or federal buildings
Finance U.S. Department of the TreasurySocial Security AdministrationInternational Trade Commission
Foreign Relations U.S. Department of StateInternational Monetary FundU.S. Agency for International DevelopmentPeace Corps
Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions U.S. Department of Health and Human ServicesU.S. Department of EducationU.S. Department of LaborU.S. Food and Drug Administration
Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs U.S. Department of Homeland SecurityU.S. General Services AdministrationNational Archives and Records AdministrationCircuit and Appeals Courts of District of ColumbiaUnited States Postal ServiceInspectors General of all departments
Judiciary Supreme CourtCircuit CourtsDistrict CourtsU.S. Department of Justice
Rules and Administration Rules of the SenateGeneral administration of congressional buildingsSmithsonian InstitutionBotanic Gardens
Small Business and Entrepreneurship Small Business Administration
Veterans' Affairs U.S. Department of Veterans AffairsU.S. Department of Labor's Assistant Secretary for the Veterans Employment and Training
Intelligence (Select) Central Intelligence AgencyU.S. Department of Treasury's Assistant Secretary for Intelligence Analysis U.S. Department of Justice's Attorney General for National SecurityDirector of National Intelligence

Senate hearings

The nomination must be on the Executive Calendar for more than one day before it can make it to the Senate floor for consideration.[1] Unanimous consent of the time and date for debate must be agreed upon by all senators.[4] If even one senator does not agree, a hold is placed on the nomination.

[4] Once the nomination is considered by the Senate, unlimited debate is allowed until two-thirds of the Senate vote to invoke cloture, closing debate.[1] Following a vote of cloture, the Senate conducts a simple majority vote on whether to confirm, reject or take no action on the nomination.

[1] If a nomination is left pending at the end of a Congress, it must be sent back to the president who can then re-submit the nomination to the new Congress.

[1] The same procedure holds true with any nominee not considered before the Senate enters a recess of more than 30 days, unless there is unanimous consent to bypass the procedure.[4]

Presidential notification

Finally, the Senate's action on the nomination is sent to the president. All results are recorded in the Congressional Record.[1]

See also

External links

  1. ↑ 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 CRS Report for Congress, “Senate Confirmation Process: An Overview,” accessed July 24, 2013
  2. ↑ 2Washington Post, “Does the Senate really need to confirm 1,200 executive branch jobs?” accessed July 25, 2013
  3. Government Printing Office, “United States Government Policy and Supporting Positions (Plum Book) 2012,” accessed July 23, 2013
  4. ↑ 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 Congressional Research Service, “Presidential Appointments, the Senate's Confirmation Process, and Proposals for Change,” accessed July 25, 2013

Status of Gov. Evers Appointments

After Gov. Tony Evers’ inauguration in January, the governor began appointing cabinet secretaries and staff for his new administration. Several of the appointments are still making their way through the Senate for confirmation. Below is an update on the status of each acting appointee: 

Commissioner of Insurance, Secretary – Mark Afable CONFIRMED 

Confirmation hearing in Senate Insurance, Financial Services, Government Oversight & Courts on Sept. 19; confirmation recommended by committee 4-0 on Oct 3; on Senate floor Nov. 5; confirmed 33-0. 

Before joining the administration, Afable worked at American Family Insurance as chief legal officer and vice president. 

Public Service Commission, Chair – Rebecca Cameron Valcq CONFIRMED 

Confirmation hearing in Senate Utilities & Housing on March 12; confirmation recommended by committee 5-0 on March 21; on Senate floor Nov. 5; confirmed 33-0.  

Valcq was previously a partner at Quarles & Brady and previously worked as attorney for WE Energies. 

 Department of Trade, Agriculture & Consumer Protections, Secretary – Brad Pfaff NOT CONFIRMED 

Confirmation hearing in Senate Agriculture, Revenue & Financial Institutions on Feb. 19; confirmation recommended by committee 9-0 on Feb. 22; on Senate floor Nov. 5; not confirmed 14-19.  

Pfaff was most recently deputy chief of staff to U.S. Rep. Ron Kind (D-La Crosse). 

Gov. Evers named DATCP deputy secretary Randy Romanski interim secretary after the Senate rejected Pfaff. 

Department of Revenue, Secretary – Peter Barca CONFIRMED 

Confirmation hearing in Senate Agriculture, Revenue & Financial Institutions on Feb. 19; confirmation recommended by committee 9-0 on Feb. 22; on Senate floor Oct 8. confirmed 33-0. 

After the announcement of his appointment, Rep. Barca (D-Kenosha) resigned his seat in the state Assembly. 

Department of Administration, Secretary – Joel Brennan CONFIRMED 

Confirmation hearing in Senate Government Operations, Technology & Consumer Protection on Feb. 19; confirmation recommended by committee 5-0 on Feb. 26; on Senate floor Oct 8. confirmed 33-0. 

Brennan was most recently CEO of Discovery World in Milwaukee. 

Department of Financial Institutions, Secretary – Kathy Coltin Blumenfeld CONFIRMED 

Confirmation hearing in Senate Agriculture, Revenue & Financial Institutions on Feb. 19; confirmation recommended by committee 9-0 on Feb. 22; on Senate floor Oct 8. confirmed 33-0. 

Blumenfeld was most recently the executive vice president for Total Administrative Services Corporation and had previously worked for CUNA. 

 Department of Veterans Affairs, Secretary – Mary Kolar CONFIRMED 

Confirmation hearing in Senate Transportation, Veterans & Military Affairs on Feb. 20; confirmation recommended by committee 4-0 on Aug. 8; on Senate floor Oct 8. confirmed 33-0. 

Kolar is a veteran and served on the Dane County Board of Supervisors. Previously, she worked as the director of public operations at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art and as the president for the Board of Directors of the Metropolitan Place Condominium Association.   

Department of Corrections, Secretary – Kevin Carr CONFIRMED 

Confirmation hearing in Senate Judiciary & Public Safety on Feb. 20; confirmation recommended by committee 4-0 on March 20; on Senate floor Oct 8. confirmed 33-0. 

Carr is a U.S. Marshal and previously worked with the Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Office.  

  • Department of Natural Resources, Secretary – Preston Cole 
  • Confirmation hearing in Senate Sporting Heritage, Mining & Forestry on March 7; confirmation recommended by committee 5-0 on Oct 1.  
  • Cole was previously a commissioner of the Milwaukee Department of Neighborhood Services and a member of the Wisconsin Natural Resources Board. 
  • Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, Secretary & CEO – Missy Hughes 

Appointed by Gov. Evers on Sept. 4, 2019. 

Hughes was formerly chief mission officer and general counsel for Organic Valley cooperative. She has also served as president of the Organic Trade Association and on the USDA Advisory Committee on Biotechnology & 21st Century Agriculture. 

Department of Workforce Development, Secretary – Caleb Frostman 

Confirmation hearing in Senate Local Government, Small Business, Tourism & Workforce Development on March 20; confirmation recommended by committee 4-0 on Sept. 10. 

Frostman won the June 2018 special election for Senate District 1 but lost in November to Sen. Andre Jacque (R-DePere). Before running for Senate, Frostman was the Door County Economic Development Corp. executive director. 

Department of Tourism, Secretary – Sara Meaney 

Confirmation hearing in Senate Local Government, Small Business, Tourism & Workforce Development on March 20; confirmation recommended by committee 4-0 on Sept. 10. 

Meaney was formerly chief marketing officer for Milwaukee Film. 

Department of Children & Families, Secretary – Emilie Amundson  

Confirmation hearing in Senate Universities, Technical Colleges, Children & Families on March 6; confirmation recommended by committee 5-0 on Aug. 27. 

Amundson was previously Evers’s chief of staff at the Department of Public Instruction (DPI). 

Department of Health Services, Secretary – Andrea Palm  

Confirmation hearing in Senate Health & Human Services on Feb. 27; confirmation recommended by committee 4-1 on Aug. 21.  

Palm was senior counselor to the federal Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) under President Barack Obama. Prior to working at HHS, Palm worked for U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-New York) and U.S. Rep. Robert Matsui (D-California). Palm also was senior advisor at the White House Domestic Policy Council during the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. 

Department of Transportation, Secretary – Craig Thompson 

Confirmation hearing in Senate Transportation, Veterans & Military Affairs on Feb. 20; confirmation recommended by committee 4-0 on Aug. 8. 

  1. Thompson was previously executive director of the Wisconsin Transportation Development Association. 
  2. Department of Safety & Professional Services, Secretary – Dawn Crim 
  3. Confirmation hearing in Senate Public Benefits, Licensing & State-Federal Relations on March 13.  
  4. Crim joins the administration from the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) and previously worked at UW-Madison. 

First Cabinet Confirmation

On September 11, 1789, the new federal government under the Constitution took a large step forward.

On that day, the president of the United States sent his first cabinet nomination to the Senate for its “advice and consent.

” Minutes later, perhaps even before the messenger returned to the president’s office, senators approved unanimously the appointment of Alexander Hamilton to be secretary of the treasury.

At the Constitutional Convention in 1787, and in the subsequent campaign to ensure the Constitution’s ratification, Hamilton vigorously supported provisions that divided responsibility for appointing government officials between the president and the Senate.

He believed that a role for the Senate in the filling of key government positions would prevent the president from selecting friends, neighbors, relatives, or other “unfit characters” to jobs for which they lacked the necessary skills, temperament, or experience.

Aside from the appointment process, the Constitution included only a passing reference to the operation of executive branch agencies. The framers assumed that the Congress would draft suitable legislation to allow the executive to manage the basic governmental functions of finance, foreign relations, and defense.

In establishing the first cabinet departments, Congress considered treasury to be the most important. Legislators spelled out its responsibilities in great detail and provided staff resources greater than all other government agencies combined.

Alexander Hamilton campaigned actively for the position of treasury secretary, even though friends had advised him to avoid that job at a time when the nation’s finances were in a “deep, dark, and dreary chaos.” They urged him, instead, to seek nomination as chief justice of the United States or to run for a seat in the Senate.

Robert Morris, the Pennsylvania senator and financier, counseled President George Washington to nominate the 34-year-old Hamilton, whom he described as “damned sharp.” Nine days after the president signed legislation creating the Treasury Department, he dispatched his messenger to the Senate with Hamilton’s nomination.

Alexander Hamilton’s intense ambition, his passion for order and efficiency, together with his tendency to meddle in the operations of other cabinet agencies, made him the administrative architect of the new government.

The combination of special congressional powers vested in the Treasury Department and the president’s relative inexperience in financial affairs allowed the secretary to pursue a course of his own choosing. One member of Congress commented, “Congress may go home. Mr.

Hamilton is all-powerful and fails in nothing that he attempts.”

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