Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Cabinet Nominations

I had an eye doctor appointment earlier, and as I was in the waiting room, eyes in the process of dilating, I had the chance to watch some of the confirmation hearings for Sen. Jeff Sessions, appointed as Attorney General. It was interesting to hear the content of each side's arguments for or against Sen. Session's appointment - with those opposed to his appointment highlighting his positions on abortion, same sex marriage, and immigration, as well as discussing stances or actions that could signal some of the same racist views as the President-Elect who appointed him, and those in favor of his appointment highlighting the work he did with regard to the Civil Rights movement and, golly gee, he's a great guy. I suspect we're going to hear a lot of this going forward, due to Trump's history of sexist/racist statements - hearings where the focus is on showing the appointee is not racist/sexist/homophobic/etc., while in other venues, Trump supporters explain away Trump's statements.

Despite this, as Nathaniel Rakich of FiveThirtyEight points out, it's likely that most to all of these appointees will be confirmed:
From 1977 to 2013, the last six incoming presidents — Jimmy Carter through Barack Obama — made 109 appointments to Cabinet-level positions. Just six failed: Five nominees withdrew, and one was voted down by the Senate. The Senate confirmed 103 during the same span, 93 of whom were unanimously approved or not seriously contested. Ten were confirmed in contested votes. (I’m defining “contested” as more than six nay votes — admittedly a somewhat arbitrary cutoff.) Including the one rejection, that means that, whenever there was genuine dissent over a floor vote, the nominee was confirmed anyway 10 times out of 11.

It has always been rare for the Senate to outright reject a Cabinet nomination. Only nine Cabinet appointees in all of U.S. history — by new presidents plus ones attempting to fill vacancies in the middle of their terms — have ever been voted down by the Senate. The most recent Senate veto came in 1989, when John Tower, President George H.W. Bush’s pick for secretary of defense, went down to defeat 53–47 amid revelations of alcohol abuse, womanizing and conflicts of interest. And that was with a hostile, Democratic-controlled Senate; the last same-party Senate to nix a president’s nominee did so in 1925.

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