President Donald Trump’s nominees to head the State Department, Veterans Affairs and the CIA are facing confirmation battles in the Senate.
Behind those battles lies the power of the president to nominate and the Senate to confirm candidates for more than 2,000 positions – including ambassadors, federal judges and Cabinet secretaries.
The Senate’s confirmation role is a fundamental governmental function, embedded into the U.S. Constitution Article II, Section 2, that preserves the balance of power between the executive and legislative branches. Its job of “advice and consent” on presidential nominees aims to limit to the power of any one person or branch of government.
Some nominees face significant scrutiny from U.S. senators who customarily grill prospective government officials in open committee hearings. The committee then votes whether or not to advance the nomination to a full Senate vote, though it may also not vote at all on a controversial nominee.
Almost all nominees survive the confirmation process. Just a handful are forced to withdraw from consideration or come up short when put to a vote. According to the Congressional Research Service, 99 percent of nominees are approved.
Rejected by the Senate
But there have been exceptions. In 1987, Ronald Reagan famously nominated Robert Bork to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Bork’s controversial conservative views on a number of legal matters, including privacy and civil rights, drew criticism from a number of senators who relentlessly questioned Bork. His nomination was defeated by the U.S. Senate 58 to 42.