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Presidential Appointments Requiring Senate Approval

Potential Roadblocks in the Presidential Transition Process


Updated November 22, 2008

What a compliment! The President of the United States has appointed you to a top-level government position, maybe even a Cabinet secretary job. Well, enjoy a glass of bubbly and take some slaps on the back, but don't sell the house and call the movers just yet. The president may want you, but it you don't get some majority love from the U.S. Senate, it's back to the shoe store on Monday for you.

About 1,000 of the more than 7,000 presidentially-appointed positions to be filled during any presidential transition process require confirmation by a majority vote of the U.S. Senate.

  • Secretaries of the 15 Cabinet agencies, deputy secretaries, under secretaries and assistant secretaries, and general counsels of those agencies: Over 350 positions.

  • Certain jobs in the independent, non-regulatory executive branch agencies, like NASA and the National Science Foundation: About 120 positions

  • Director positions in the regulatory agencies, like the Environmental Protection Agency and the Federal Aviation Administration: 130 positions

  • U.S. Attorneys and marshals: About 200 positions

  • Ambassadors to foreign nations: 150 positions

  • Presidential appointments to part-time positions, like the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System: 160 positions

When the Presidency and the Senate are controlled by different political parties, it is not uncommon for some of the president's nominees for these positions to be rejected by the Senate. Cabinet Secretaries and directors of regulatory agencies are particularly vulnerable to Senate rejection in such instances.

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