I searched for this topic and found nothing. The President isn’t even required to pick a cabinet, so why does he have to get his picks approved by the Senate? When did this start? What if he wanted no cabinet, is that allowed?
Article 2, Section 2 of the Constitution:
He [the President] shall have power, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, to make treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur; and he 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…
Including the Cabinet. However, there have been numerous examples of the President seeking the advice of people other than his Cabinet, including Jackson’s Kitchen Cabinet, and Nixon’s reliance on Henry Kissinger as a de facto Secretary of State over William Rogers.
Considering the diligent work of Jesse Helms, I think it is possible for the President to have no Cabinet at all. Helms has worked hard to block every possible ambassador nominee that the President has offered. A large number of those positions remain unfilled, officially. Presumably, the executive agencies would work exactly as they have for much of the past eight years, only on a larger level, with acting directors instead of official appointees.
I think, but am not sure, that this is covered under Article II, Section 2, Paragraph 2 of the U.S. Constitution.
As to the “why,” I guess it’s a checks & balances thing. Congress doesn’t have the time to administer all the laws it promulgates. So they set up agencies - let’s say Social Security or HUD. Those agencies have the power, through administrative law, to enforce what Congress intended. As the chief executive, the President is at the pinnacle of those agencies. But most of the agencies are actually created by Congress. Therefore, the Senate gets a say in who heads those agencies.
Ambassadors having nothing to do with the Cabinet, which, BTW, is not a legally constituted body, though traditionally made up of the heads of the “important” executive departments (currently 14). It is uncommon for the President to be denied a Secretary-level appointment, though many lower-level appointments have been blocked. Does anyone know the last time the Senate refused to confirm a Cabinet-level appointee?
I believe John Tower was voted down by the Senate as Bush Sr.'s Secretary of Defense in '89. There may have been other Cabinet nominees who went through a vote and lost since then, but most doomed candidates withdraw before the inevitable vote, e.g., Lani Guinier.
The first cabinet rejection was Roger Taney, selected by Jackson for Secretary of Treasury. Jackson showed them. Next session, he pushed Taney through as a Supreme Court justice, later to be known for the Dred Scott decision.
According to that same Senate article, a few pages later, it mentions that 27 out of 148 Supreme Court appointments were blocked, while only 9 of 500+ cabinet positions have been blocked. However, that does not include the legion of nominees and potential nominees who were explicitly warned to withdraw or face the same fate.
John Tower was the last Cabinet nominee to be blocked, from Defense, in 1989. Two of the younger Bush’s nominees, for AG and Interior, may face difficult ideological cross-examination this time around.
The Cabinet falls squarely under Article 2, Section 2, as referenced above (“not herein otherwise provided for”).
I forgot about John Tower. Lani Guinier, however, wasn’t nominated for a Cabinet position; she was nominated to head the civil rights division of the Justice Department. I think it’s much more common for these type positions to run into controversy.
You’re right, JeffB; I was just using Guinier as an example. I also suspect one reason lower-echelon appointments run into more controversy is that they usually haven’t been exposed to as much political scrutiny as your typical Cabinet nominee.
The cabinet, plus several of their deputies (I’m not sure how far down) are styled as officers of the United States in the enabling laws for their departments, therefore are subject to A&C of the Senate by Art II, Sec 2.
I’m pretty sure that the Senate also approves promotion lists for commissioned officers in the military. I’m not sure if it is all the way down to the O1 level, but for General Staff/Flag officers (O7 and up), I am sure.
Because cabinet members are the heads of executive departments. If the president wanted to create a cabinet of people that had no other role other than as advisors to the president then I do not think they would have to be confirmed.
The Cabinet rejects:
- Roger B. Taney for Treasury in 1834
- Caleb Cushing for Treasury in 1843 (3 times!)
- Secretary of War appointee by Tyler in 1843
- Secretary of Navy appointee by Tyler in 1843
[Can’t find these guys names]
- Henry Stanbery as Attorney General in 1868 (had resigned to defend Johnson in his impeachment trial)
- Charles Warren as Attorney General in 1926
- Lewis Strauss as Commerce Secretary in 1959
- John Tower as Defense Secretary in 1989
There’s supposed to be nine. I don’t know if Henry Dearborn’s rejection as Secretary of War in 1815 counts. The Senate rejected Madison’s nomination, but Madison had wished to rescind the nomination and the Senate later erased the rejection from its journal.
John Tyler and Congress didn’t get along well.
What about Zoe Baird?
Zoe Baird’s appointment never came to a full vote of the Senate. In fact, it never even got a vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee. She withdrew after one day of testimony before that committee.
Presidents seem to be much more willing to ride out the storm with a Supreme Court nominee than a Cabinet nominee. Also, the Senate is less likely to reject a Cabinet nominee because whoever it is won’t be around for life.
Her nomination was withdrawn, due to that nanny tax evasion, before a vote (therefore not rejected).
Damn. [thinks to self=“reload”]