Senate Traditionally Confirms First Cabinet Secretaries Within Days of Inauguration

December 4, 2020

Having Cabinet positions filled by Senate-confirmed appointees benefits new administrations – and more importantly, the country – by enabling presidents to hit the ground running, especially during times of crisis. An examination of the last four incoming presidents shows that each announced most of their desired Cabinet secretaries during their transition, and the Senate generally moved quickly to confirm those nominations. On average, 95% of these secretary nominees receive confirmation hearings before the inauguration. For Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Donald Trump, the confirmations of their secretary picks occurred almost immediately following the moment they took the oath of office on Jan. 20.

Traditionally, the Senate has begun consideration of top nominees even before Inauguration Day recognizing the need for confirmed leadership in the new administration. The confirmation process strengthens ties between the executive and legislative branches by allowing the president’s appointees and the Senate committees an opportunity to discuss their respective priorities and views. The Partnership for Public Service has long advocated the importance of new administrations getting appointees in their seats quickly, including during the Trump administration. Cooperation between the Senate and the incoming president on this important process is a staple of recent transitions.

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