Must US Cabinet Secretaries be re-appointed after election?

A dude I know says that cabinet secretaries must be re-appointed and re-approved by the Senate after a President wins a second consecutive term. I say this is nonsense, and that cabinet secretaries serve until they are fired, resign or die, irrespective of any elections having happened.

Finding the truth is essential. A case of Guinness is riding on this.

This link US Cabinet would seem to suggest that the cabinet must be reappointed. I do think the confirmation of reappointed cabinet officials would go smoothly.
I could see an interesting battle if Bush were to win, but the Dems take control of the Senate. I doubt Ashcroft could receive a second confirmation.

That page seems to be copied from this Wikipedia article, which is what started the whole argument in the first place. I was going to correct it, but The Dude Who Will Owe Me Some Beer says it’s correct. So I need something from a more reputable source.

The presumption of requiring re-appointment is not consistent with recent practice. Reagan and Clinton both asked for all Cabinet Secretaries to submit a letter of resignation shortly after winning re-election. Then each president selected which resignations to accept and which to reject (the latter being kept in their job). I don’t recall those being kept having to go thru Congressional scrutiny, but that’s just my memory.

If the case of Cabinet posts where the resignation was accepted, Congress frequently approves the replacement nominee who can then be sworn in before the re-inauguration. (Obviously, a new President’s nominees would not be sworn in until after the inauguration.)

There’s nothing that requires cabinet members to resign between terms. They are appointed by congress to serve at the pleasure of the president, and they remain in office until the president dismisses them.

In addition, if the president dies and the vice president takes over, all cabinet members remain in place until the VP asks them to leave.

There are also cases where cabinet members remained after a change of presidents: Coolege’s Secretary of State, Frank B. Kellogg, remained at the post when Hoover was elected.

Reagan began the practice of asking his cabinet to tender letters of resignation, modeling it after British practice. But he could have fired anyone he wanted (since the Tenure of Office Act was long since overturned by the Supreme Court).

Close. They’re appointed by the President, confirmed by the Senate, and the House of Representatives has no role in it at all.

Regarding the question of re-confirmation by the Senate, I don’t recall ever seeing a sitting cabinet member going through Senate confirmation again (i.e., after being reappointed by the President).

What Is the Presidential Appointment Process?

I know it’s not quite the same, but I nelieve a Supreme Court justice needs to be reaffirmed to become the Chief Justice. Do Cabinet members have to be reaffirmed if they switch chairs to a different agency?

No. Appointments to the federal bench are for life. Once appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate, federal judges are no longer encumbered by future affirmations.

In the case of the Chief Justice, the president traditionally appoints them directly from outside of the Court.

Rehnquist was an Associate Justice, before he was Chief Justice. This site doesn’t say whether he had to be re-confirmed. but it DOES say that Reagan “nominated” him to be Chief Justice, which certainly implies a confirmation process.

That’s correct, and I’m fairly sure I remember him going through a Senate confirmation process when he was appointed Chief Justice.

When it comes to a cabinet member switching agencies, I believe they do go through the Senate again. The reason is not hard to fathom. Someone who’s been, say, the HUD Secretary, and doing a great job at it, might be woefully unprepared to be Defense Secretary. He might have a long history of saying things like “I think we should eliminate the Navy entirely.” Statements like that wouldn’t have any effect on his suitability to be the HUD Secretary, but if the President wanted to move him to DoD, I believe the Senate would want to have some input!

You’re wrong. 5 of 16 were appointed from within the court. Doing something 2/3s of the time does not a tradition make.

Charles Hughes NY 1930-41
Edward White LA 1910-21
Harlan Stone NY 1941-46
John Rutledge SC 1795
William Rehnquist AZ 1986-

An associate justice who is nominated to be the Chief Justice must go through a confirmation process, including a vote. Chief Justice is a different position than Associate Justice, just like a Federal district judge is a different job than circuit court judge. A Secretary of one department who becomes a Secretary of another must go through the confirmation process, including a vote. That’s because they are different positions, again.

A secretary whose service extends though two different terms of a president does not need to be reconfirmed. Look, for example, at the term of Robert Rubin as Treasury Secretary (on page 5) – his nomination was announced 12/6/94, received in the Senate 1/4/95, confirmed on 1/10/95, and not renominated in 1997 (upon Clinton’s second inauguration). Senate pdf document.

When the President nominates an appointee, and the Senate gives its advice and consent, then the President can commission the appointee to a particular office or judgeship – Secretary of State, or Associate Justice, for example, or Colonel. The officer then holds office at the President’s pleasure, in the case of an executive office; during good behavior, in the case of a judgeship; or for a particular term, if the statute creating the office so provides, as it does for most agencies that exercise quasi-judicial or quasi-legislative powers, such as the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System.

An executive officer who serves at the President’s pleasure, including a Cabinet secretary, holds office until the President accepts his or her resignation or dismisses him or her. Most reelected presidents have asked for their appointees’ resignations after reelection, accepted a few resignations, and declined the other resignations. The process began long before President Reagan:

Bradley H. Patterson Jr., The White House Staff: Inside the West Wing and Beyond 227-28 (2000). The appointees whose resignations were declined kept the offices that they were holding – their resignations were declined, they were not “reappointed.” The Senate played no role in the process, since each appointee whose resignation the President had declined still held an appointment to the office to which the Senate had advised and consented at the time of the original appointment, and was still serving at the President’s pleasure.

To serve at the President’s pleasure, by the way, means serving at the pleasure of the Presidential office, not necessarily just the president who made the appointment. An appointment does not expire when the Presidency changes hands – not when a Vice President succeeds to the Presidency in the middle of a Presidential term, and not even when a new President takes office after an election. The entire administration, including all the officers who serve at the President’s pleasure, customarily resign when a new President comes into office. But a new President could – and occasionally does – avoid the Senatorial confirmation process by simply keeping on his or her predecessor’s appointee. A new administration typically lets a few low- and mid-level appointees hold over, at least temporarily, into the new administration in cases of particular hardship:

Patterson, ibid., at 226-27.

An appointment for a statutory term expires when the term ends. The President can reappoint the incumbent, but only if the Senate renews its advice and consent. The Federal Bureau of Investigation director and the Federal Reserve chairman are two prominent examples of officers who serve statutotry terms; FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover and Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan were both reappointed to several terms, but needed Senatorial confirmation each time.

A federal judge appointed to an article III court holds his or her appointment during good behavior – effectively for life, in most cases. But that judge holds only a particular judgeship, and can move to another judgeship – for example, from a district judgeship to a circuit jugdeship, or from a circuit judgeship to an associate justiceship, or from Associate Justice to Chief Justice – only if the President nominates him or her and the Senate advises and consents to the nomination.