Posts tagged ‘presidential nominations’

Senate Confirmation Hearings

Some of the most highly publicized Senate hearings are those held for the purpose of considering presidential nominations. These nominations may include cabinet positions and nominations for other executive branch political offices, federal judges and U.S. diplomatic posts.

Kagan-37
Creative Commons License photo credit: Harvard Law Record

Witnesses at nomination and confirmation hearings typically include the individual nominated as well as other individuals who may be in a position to provide relevant information regarding the credentials, experience, character, qualification and overall fitness for service of the individual nominated.

Confirmation hearings are conducted by committees of the Senate that come within the purview of their respective jurisdictions. For instance, Senate Armed Services Committee hearings would consider the nominations of individuals such as the Secretary of Defense while the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee would hold hearings to consider the nomination of individuals such as the Secretary of Energy.

The Senate Judiciary Committee is responsible for conducting hearings for the purpose of reviewing nominations of federal district and appellate court judges, Testifying Before Congress, by William LaForgeand Supreme Court justices. Usually there is a large number of confirmation hearings held during the weeks and months immediately after a new president is inaugurated. Confirmation hearings may also be scheduled anytime a presidential nomination occurs. Senate confirmation hearings often result in a report to the full Senate to prepare for a floor vote.

While confirmation hearings may be conducted in a fairly routine manner that is not always the case. One of the highest-profile and most significant congressional hearings took place following the nomination of Judge Robert Bork by President Reagan to the United States Supreme Court in 1987. A huge battle between liberals and conservatives ensued, leading to millions of dollars being sent by both liberal and conservative activist groups. The Senate Judiciary Committee conducted twelve full days of hearings, with Judge Bork testifying during an unprecedented five days. Over the course of the hearing, one hundred witnesses appeared before the committee, either in support or opposition of the nomination. Ultimately, the Judiciary Committee voted against confirming Bork, however, it did not end there. Bork announced that he wished to proceed with a Senate floor vote; a vote that concluded 58-42 against the nomination.

To learn more about preparing to testify before Congress, consider attending TheCapitol.Net’s Preparing and Delivering Congressional Testimony, also available for custom, on-site training. To learn more about congressional hearings, see TheCapitol.Net’s 3-day Capitol Hill Workshop.

Reference: Testifying Before Congress, by William LaForge, Section 1.58 Senate advice and Consent, Section 1.87 Example of the Influence of Hearings on Committee Action, and Section 7.5 Committee Follow-up Activities and Responsibilities.

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The President’s Nominations to Federal Courts

Because appointments to Federal District and Circuit Courts of Appeals, and the Supreme Court, are lifetime appointments, the Senate plays a constitutional (Article. II. Section. 2.) and active role in such appointments. The stakes in judicial appointments are often seen as being quite high by most senators.

ah, the Spring St. courthouse
Creative Commons License photo credit: maveric2003

The president typically consults senators from the home state of a prospective nominee when making judicial nominations. This is particularly true when the senator is in the same party as the president. Once the judicial nomination has been received by the Senate, it is then referred to the Judiciary Committee and the committee chair directs a blue slip to senators from the state of the nominee. The blue slip may be used by senators for indicating either approval or disapproval of the nominee. In the case of a Supreme Court nominee, he or she will often make a courtesy call on members of the committee and often on other senators.

The breadth and time involved in the hearings conducted Congressional Deskbook, by Michael L. Koempel and Judy Schneiderby the Judiciary Committee varies based on the type of nomination and the level of support for that nominee. In the case of a district judge who is supported by both home state senators and in which there is little controversy, the matter might be handled through a hearing that covers multiple judges.

The nomination of a person to the Supreme Court usually involves a hearing that lasts at least several days. The length of time involving Supreme Court nominations allows the nominee to testify and gives committee members the opportunity to ask questions of the nominee at length. Numerous witnesses may also provide testimony after the nominee regarding a variety of factors for the committee to take into consideration.

A nomination can land in trouble when there are concerns regarding the views of the nominee or the character of the nominee. In some instances, political factors that are completely independent of the nominee can thwart a nomination. For instance, during a presidential election year, the Senate might be reluctant to oblige the sitting president by confirming a large number of nominees.

To learn more about the nomination of federal appointments, see TheCapitol.Net’s book, Supreme Court Nominations, and consider the 3-day Capitol Hill Workshop.

Reference: Congressional Deskbook, by Michael L. Koempel and Judy Schneider, Section 10.120 Congress and the Courts, and Section 10.121 Nominations to Federal Courts.

For detailed information about the legislative process, see

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