Confirmation by the Senate

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CONFIRMATION BY THE SENATE, the constitutional requirement that appointments by the president be made "by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate" (Article II, Section 2). Although Congress may by statute waive this requirement in the case of low-level appointments, by 1975 there were 319 office titles the holders of which required confirmation by the Senate. Confirmation by the Senate is by majority vote, and in some cases it is generally given as a matter of course. During the late twentieth century, however, Senate confirmations became the arena for bitter partisan battles, particularly in regard to appointments to the Supreme Court and to cabinet or subcabinet positions. For example, the Senate's rejection of Robert Bork's nomination to the Supreme Court in 1987 set off a series of confirmation battles in the late 1980s and throughout the 1990s.

The necessity of obtaining Senate approval operates, on the whole, as a considerable check on presidential power. It is the principal basis for the practice of senatorial patronage and for the twin practice of senatorial courtesy, in accordance with which the Senate will ordinarily refuse to confirm appointments not recommended and therefore opposed by the senators of the appointee's home state.


Matthews, Christopher. Hardball: How Politics Is Played, Told by One Who Knows the Game. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1999. Originally published in 1988.

Smith, Hedrick. The Power Game: How Washington Works. New York: Random House, 1988.

Vieira, Norman, and Leonard Gross. Supreme Court Appointments: Judge Bork and the Politicization of Senate Confirmations. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1998.

Clarence A.Berdahl/a. g.

See alsoAmbassadors ; Cabinet .