Last week the U. S. Senate shifted into high gear exercising its constitutional authority and duty to give both “advice and consent” on President-elect Donald Trump’s nominees for key Executive Branch appointments.
Our Constitution covers the respective roles of the President and the Senate in these matters. According to Article II, Section 2, 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 Offic-ers of the United States, whose Appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by Law: But the Congress may by Law vest the Appointment of such inferior Officers, as they think proper, on the President alone, in the Courts of Law, or in the Heads of Departments.”
This important passage from our Constitution clearly conveys the intent of the framers to both grant and limit the powers of the president when it comes to vital issues of American foreign and domestic policy. It rings out through the centuries to confront Trump’s high-level nominees, now and in the future.
Power sharing was on full display in several Senate hearings last week -- some more contentious than others. For example, U.S. Attorney General nominee, Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., faced stiff opposition from from civil rights activists, including members of the Congressional Black Caucus. His colleague, N.J. Democrat Sen. Cory Booker, expressed little confidence in the nominee’s ability to administer justice fairly to all.
Meanwhile, Trump’s Secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson was grilled by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on his credentials for the position. One of his chief inquisitors was Flirida GOP Sen. Marco Rubio. Rubio questioned whether Tillerson’s apparent lack of “moral clarity” might be grounds for rejection. As of this writing, the committee has not voted on Tillerson, but if Rubio votes against him, it could delay-or even derail, his confirmation by the full Senate.
Trump’s nominee for Secretary of Defense James Mattis had much smoother sailing with the Senate Armed Services Committee. The only obstacle to his confirmation up to then was the requirement for a waiver to the law that requires seven years passage from military service for the retired Marine 4-Star General to serve as Defense Secretary. The intent of that law is to preserve and protect the tradition of “civilian control of the military.” The committee voted to grant the waiver for Mattis; so did the full Senate.
However these confirmation hearings turn out, they are just the tip of the iceberg on the total number of Trump’s nominees. Of 690 key positions requiring Senate confirmation, less than 30 have been announced and than more 660 are awaiting announcement.
I predict most of Trump’s nominees will ultimately be confirmed by the Senate, but not without some bumps along the way. But hey, that’s the American way.
Retired Army Col. Thomas B. Vaughn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.