Confirmations 101


Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and co. have hit the ground running in the new year. This week, they’re working to pack in as many of Trump’s cabinet nominees’ confirmation hearings as possible. Like many congressional procedures, the cabinet confirmation process is not totally clear. And unlike many congressional proceedings there isn’t a Schoolhouse Rock video explaining the confirmation process. So we’ve been forced to take this explanation on ourselves. Here’s what you need to know:

All cabinet-level officials, as well as hundreds of other agency heads and senior positions, require senate confirmation. The first step of the confirmation process is the vetting and disclosure process, which the vast majority of Trump’s nominees have not completed. Then, the nominee is given to the Senate committee with jurisdiction over the appointed position, the Senate Judiciary committee, for example, oversees the Attorney General. Full list of committee jurisdictions here. That committee then can hold hearings (happening this week) and either vote to move the nominee to the Senate floor for a full vote or refuse to do so, killing the nomination. The committee can report the nomination favorably, unfavorably, or without recommendation to the rest of the Senate. Once a nomination gets out of the committee, it goes to a full Senate vote, where it needs a simple majority vote.


The first step in the Trump Administration’s confirmation process: Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ hearing, which started this morning and will also continue tomorrow. The Attorney General is a major job that impacts all Americans. Unfortunately for Americans, especially for marginalized communities, Sessions’ background and policy positions indicate he would not be an Attorney General who works for all Americans. Here are a few reasons why:

  • History of racism. Back in 1986, Sessions was appointed to be a federal judge, but was deemed too racist to be confirmed for the position. Sessions also has a history of suppressing the right to vote for people of color. And former KKK leader David Duke hailed Sessions as Attorney General.
  • Anti-immigrant beliefs. Sessions has said immigrants create “cultural problems,” believes unauthorized immigrants don’t have rights under the U.S. Constitution, opposes and supports mass deportation of unauthorized immigrants, among other things.

As if people needed any more reasons to #Stop Sessions, his record is so concerning that Sen. Cory Booker is testifying against him, which is the first time a senator has testified against a Senate colleague, and civil rights hero Rep. John Lewis is joining him. And Khizr Khan, the father of fallen soldier Captain Khan, is urging the Senate to not confirm Sessions. It’s clear: Sessions’ record proves he’s unfit to be Attorney General and the Senate should not confirm his nomination.


Chicago. Back to where it all started. Tune in tonight at 9 PM to listen to President Obama’s farewell address, and take a moment to say #ThanksObama for all the progress he’s helped this country achieve over the last 8 years.

Setbacks. Congressional Republicans are already facing them just days into the new Congress. A group of Senate Republicans including Sen. Sens. Bob Corker (R-TN), Tom Cotton (R-AR), Susan Collins (R-ME), Rob Portman (R-OH), and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) who are working to delay repeal of the ACA until March. And it’s not just moderate Republicans who are working against Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell’s ACA repeal plan. The House Freedom Caucus also wants to delay a repeal vote, and Trump himself also apparently hasn’t made up his mind on how to move forward with healthcare. Meanwhile, enrollment in the ACA is up from last year—more than 11.5 million people have signed up for health coverage through the ACA.


Trolls. They’re in the Senate too! Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) sends Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) 2009 letter back to him asking that Trump’s nominees meet the same standards McConnell demanded of Obama’s nominees.


The People’s Power. Think your voice isn’t heard? Think again. This transition period has showed just how forceful it can be when voters demand action from their members of Congress. Just a few weeks ago concerned citizens successfully resisted House Republicans from gutting the Congressional Ethics Office. And now, because of mounting concerns that Trump’s pick for Education Secretary Betsey Devos has not been adequately vetted, the Senate HELP Committee just announced the postponement of her confirmation hearing until Jan. 17. Join a nationwide call-in today from 12-4 PM ET to continue calling on the HELP Committee to resist Devos’ confirmation. More information on this Facebook event page.

#ProtectOurCare. This week, congressional Republicans are continuing their efforts to repeal the ACA. The facts are clear: the GOP’s plan to repeal the law would be a disaster. It would create chaos and could cause up to 30 million people to lose their health care. Join us and our partners in calling Congress today to fight to oppose ACA repeal. Call this number 1-866-426-2631 before 5 pm EST to urge your representatives to #ProtectOurCare.

The positions of American Progress, and our policy experts, are independent, and the findings and conclusions presented are those of American Progress alone. A full list of supporters is available here. American Progress would like to acknowledge the many generous supporters who make our work possible.