This week President Elect Trump’s nominations for the leaders of the Administrative Departments of the country are sitting before Congress at their confirmation hearings. On December 9, 2016 the Judiciary Committee of the Senate announced the confirmation hearing dates for Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) for the position of Attorney General of the United States. When I sent this announcement out to advocates, I received multiple questions of indignation “They can’t do this right? They are confirming these people before Trump takes the oath? They can’t do that he’s not the President yet?” My reply was yes they can and in fact this is not the first time it has been done.
How is this possible? The separation of powers makes this possible. Once the President Elect has been identified he/she one day – is considered this country’s next leader. They get all the bells and whistles – security clearance, Secret Service protectors, etc. In fact this was the plan of the Constitution, this person must have prep time before officially taking office.
Prep time includes their nominating candidates for the Administration Cabinet. Once they formally nominate they can send the names to the Senate for vetting. It is the US Senate that confirms nominees for multiple high-level Administrative positions. The issue areas that the Department covers determine which Senate committee will conduct the nominees confirmation hearing. Attorney General is the head of the Department of Justice, so the confirmation hearing is held in the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Trump submitted multiple nominees to the Senate in December for these positions and those committees started the vetting process back then. It must be said, he has some serious and knowledgeable strategists around him – a problem for our work ahead during his Presidency.
The separation of powers which is the three branches of government Executive, Legislative and Judiciary make it possible to hold the nominee confirmations for the position, prior to the President Elect taking oath. As a separate power, the legislative branch, in this case the US Senate runs this process.
This is part of the importance of having party majority. The party that holds the majority of either the House or Senate runs the agenda for the work being done in those entities. It is also why it is important for the country to NOT only concentrate on the Presidential election – ALL elections are important. The Republican Party won the majority in both Houses of Congress in November.
The legislative calendar is directed by the Majority leader of the Senate and House. Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is the Majority leader of the Senate and Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) is the House Majority Leader. They set the calendar for the 115th Congress, which is what we are in, to start on January 3, 2017. Once Congress officially starts, they can set their own calendar and work plan. The chairs of the committees who received nominee names, decided to move forward and get things done prior to Trump coming into office. They want to have these people confirmed and their paper work done for the signature of the new President on January 20th.
This is not new other Administrations have done this as well. The AG of the US is almost always done first as you don’t want the country to go without a head of Justice for too long! It is not just the US Attorneys but FBI, Law Enforcement, Prison administration along with other important law areas that are housed in the Department of Justice. Attorney General John Ashcroft’s confirmation hearings were held January 16 -19, 2001 and he took office February 2, 2001.
As Social Justice soldiers enter into these most difficult times, they must be aware of these policy procedures and rules that can and will be used to dismantle much of what many courageous souls over the past years have built.
I plan to use my talent and expertise as a Policy Analyst here in Washington, DC to educate and empower those who will stand up and fight.
Please leave comments, send me your questions about policy and pass the word about The WIYATT! (Thanks)
New York Times article on President George W. Bush nominees: The 43rd President: The Team; Democrat Chosen as Bush Completes Cabinet Selection by David E. Sanger – January 3, 2001 http://www.nytimes.com/2001/01/03/us/the-43rd-president-the-team-democrat-chosen-as-bush-completes-cabinet-selection.html