Search Penny Hill Press

Monday, February 25, 2013

Nominations to Cabinet Positions During Inter-Term Transitions Since 1984

Maeve P. Carey
Analyst in Government Organization and Management

Henry B. Hogue
Analyst in American National Government

Michael W. Greene
Information Research Specialist

Under the Constitution, the top leadership positions of the executive branch are filled through appointment by the President “by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate.” These posts include most of the approximately two dozen that form the President’s Cabinet. Because of the importance of these offices to the implementation of the President’s policies and the leadership of federal departments and agencies, they are usually among the first to be filled at the outset of a new Administration. The President may nominate individuals to fill these posts at any point during his time in office, however. From time-to-time, Presidents have made new Cabinet appointments in the midst of a term in response to unexpected resignations or deaths.

In recent decades, it also has become customary for each two-term President to reshuffle his Cabinet during the inter-term transition—the transition that takes place at the end of a President’s first term in office and beginning of his second term. This process of filling Cabinet vacancies at the beginning of a second term has not been as extensive as the staffing at the beginning of the first term; typically about half the Cabinet members change. Nonetheless, the pace at which these nominations and confirmations are carried out could affect the implementation of the President’s policies during his second term, as well as the leadership of the departments and agencies affected.

This report documents nominations to Cabinet positions during inter-term presidential transitions since 1984. During this period, three two-term Presidents—Ronald W. Reagan, William J. Clinton, and George W. Bush—made 30 nominations during inter-term transitions. For the purposes of this report, CRS considered an inter-term nomination to be one made between November 1 of a President’s reelection year and April 30 of the first year of his second term.

The duration of the Senate’s consideration of these Cabinet nominations during inter-term transitions varied considerably. For example, while only 9 days elapsed from the Senate’s receipt of one such nomination to its confirmation (William E. Brock III’s nomination to be Secretary of Labor in 1985), another nomination to the same position (Alexis M. Herman to be Secretary of Labor in 1997) was under consideration in the Senate for 113 days.

The mean (average) number of days elapsed from receipt of Cabinet nominations during interterm transitions in the Senate to final action was 29.3 days, or just under a month. The median number of days from receipt to final action was 22.0, or just over three weeks. In other words, nominations to Cabinet positions during inter-term transitions typically take approximately three to four weeks to proceed through the Senate confirmation process, once the nomination has been received in the Senate.

Another way to report the duration of Cabinet nominations during inter-term transitions is to measure the number of days elapsed using the date of the President’s announcement of his intention to nominate the individual, rather than submission of the nomination, as a starting point. The mean (average) number of days elapsed using this methodology is 60.2, and the median is 50.5 days.

Date of Report: February 20, 2013
Number of Pages: 17
Order Number: R42963
Price: $29.95

To Order:

R42963.pdf  to use the SECURE SHOPPING CART


Phone 301-253-0881

For email and phone orders, provide a Visa, MasterCard, American Express, or Discover card number, expiration date, and name on the card. Indicate whether you want e-mail or postal delivery. Phone orders are preferred and receive priority processing.