Presidential candidates are expected to establish their policy agendas while on the campaign trail, and then carryout those goals if they take office. In the modern era, Congress has tended to grant broad powers to the executive to administrate and regulate in order to carry out the laws it passed. This has led to an increasingly important role of the executive bureaucracy in our governing system. So, how is it that these officials take office? In this lesson, students will explore the constitutional process that is conducted in order to find, nominate, and confirm members of the executive department.
Have students read Article II Section 2 of Handout A: U.S. Constitution, and then answer the questions below.
- What power does the president have concerning “Officers of the United States”?
- What power does the Senate have concerning “Officers of the United States”?
- Why do you think both Congress and the president have a role in the appointment and confirmation of these officers? What constitutional principle does this process uphold?
Next, have students read Handout B: Appointment Confirmation Process, and then answer the questions below.
- What is the role of the White House Office of Presidential Personnel in this process?
- Why do you think so many separate groups are responsible for conducting their own background check on potential nominations?
- Why do you think specific Senate committees are initially tasked with recommending or not recommending a candidate to the whole body of the Senate? What are some potential advantages and disadvantages of carrying this process out in this manner?
- What is “cloture”? What is its role in the confirmation process?
- How many votes are needed in order for the Senate to confirm an official? Do you think this is an adequate number?
There have only been a small number of times where the president has appointed an official and the Senate has voted against confirming him. Have students select one of these figures and research why it was that the Senate rejected them, and determine if they agree or not with the Senate’s reasoning for doing so.