Headed to the Hill

Cabinet nominees will begin the confirmation process this week

January 09, 2017

President-elect Donald Trump's choice for Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, left, meets with Senate Minority Whip Democrat Richard Durbin in Washington, D.C. on January 4, 2017. Sessions will appear in his confirmation hearing on January 10.

As president-elect Donald Trump waits to be inaugurated on January 20, the process to confirm the members of his Cabinet begins this week. Seven confirmation hearings are scheduled, beginning Tuesday morning.

The Cabinet is a group of advisors closest to the president. There are 16 members in total, including the vice president and the leaders of 15 government departments, like State, Justice, and Defense.

To become a member of the Cabinet, a nominee must be confirmed by the Senate. That process begins with a hearing in front of a committee relevant to the specific position. For example, the Attorney General nominee faces questions from members of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Once the hearings end, the Cabinet nomination is sent to the full Senate and all 100 Senators vote to approve or reject the nominee.

Prepping for the Hearings

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell meets with Commerce Secretary nominee Wilbur Ross at the U.S. Capitol on December 6, 2016 in Washington, D.C.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell meets with Commerce Secretary nominee Wilbur Ross at the U.S. Capitol on December 6, 2016 in Washington, D.C.

Members of Trump’s transition team have been working to prepare the Cabinet nominees for the confirmation process. Officials said on Sunday that the nominees have spent more than 70 hours participating in mock hearings. During these practice hearings, volunteers play the roles of senators asking a number of possible questions.

The Cabinet nominees have also been making the rounds in Washington. They have been meeting with both Republican and Democratic senators to discuss their nominations and what they want to accomplish in Trump’s administration.

But the nominees are not the only ones facing pressure ahead of the hearings. The Office of Government Ethics (OGE) is a government agency in charge of completing ethics reviews on each of the nominees. On Friday, the OGE alerted Senate Democrats that it is facing “undue pressure” to rush the vetting of the Cabinet nominees in order to keep the hearings on schedule. Vetting is a process where individuals or groups thoroughly investigate a person's background and history to ensure they are fit or suitable to do a job.

“The announced hearing scheduled for several nominees who have not completed the ethics review process is of great concern to me,” OGE director Walter Shaub Jr. wrote in a letter.

Meet the Nominees

The OGE letter has not led to a change in the schedule of confirmation hearings. So the first nominees to face the Senate will be Alabama senator Jeff Sessions and retired Marine Corps general John F. Kelly. Sessions is nominated to be Attorney General, while Kelly was chosen to head Homeland Security.

Sessions has served in the U.S. Senate since 1997 and was the first senator to support Trump for president. Kelly is a retired four-star general who served in the Marines for more than 40 years. Both candidates have been meeting with senators at Capitol Hill leading up to the hearings. To learn more about Sessions, Kelly, and other Cabinet member candidates, click here.

There are five other confirmation hearings scheduled to begin this week: Secretary of State, Secretary of Education, Secretary of Transportation, Secretary of Commerce, and Housing and Urban Development secretary. The rest of Trump’s Cabinet nominees will face confirmation hearings later in January.

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