The Appointments Clause is part of Article II, Section 2, Clause 2 of the
United States Constitution The Constitution of the United States is the supreme law of the United States of America. This founding document, originally comprising seven articles, delineates the national frame of government. Its first three articles embody the doctr ...

United States Constitution
, which empowers the
President of the United States The president of the United States (POTUS) is the head of state and head of government of the United States of America. The president directs the Federal government of the United States#Executive branch, executive branch of the Federal govern ...
to nominate and, with the advice and consent (confirmation) of the
United States Senate The United States Senate is the upper chamber of the United States Congress The United States Congress or U.S. Congress is the bicameral legislature of the federal government of the United States and consists of the House of Rep ...
, appoint public officials. Although the Senate must confirm certain principal officers (including
ambassador An ambassador is an official envoy, especially a high-ranking diplomat who represents a state and is usually accredited to another sovereign state or to an international organization as the resident representative of their own government or sov ...
s, Cabinet secretaries, and federal judges), Congress may by
law Law is a system A system is a group of Interaction, interacting or interrelated elements that act according to a set of rules to form a unified whole. A system, surrounded and influenced by its environment, is described by its boundaries, ...
delegate the Senate's advice and consent role when it comes to "inferior" officers (to the President alone, or the courts of law, or the heads of departments).


Appointments Clause aspects


The President has plenary power to nominate political appointees, and the Senate's role is only advisory to the nomination, because the President is not bound to appoint his own nominee even with their advice. As stated in the Constitutional Convention, “As the President was to nominate, there would be responsibility, and as the Senate was to concur, there would be security.”

Advice and consent

The Appointments Clause confers plenary power to the President to nominate, and confers plenary power to the Senate to reject or confirm a nominee, through its ''advice and consent'' provision. As with other
separation of powers Separation of powers refers to the division of a state (polity), state's government into branches, each with separate, independent power (social and political), powers and responsibilities, so that the powers of one branch are not in conflict ...
provisions in the Constitution, the wording here seeks to ensure accountability and preempt tyranny.
Alexander Hamilton Alexander Hamilton (January 11, 1755 or 1757July 12, 1804) was an American statesman, politician, legal scholar, military commander, lawyer, banker, and economist. He was one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. He was an influent ...

Alexander Hamilton
defended the use of a public confirmation of officers in '' The Federalist No. 77'', where he commented "a conclave in which cabal and intrigue will have their full scope. . . . e desire of mutual gratification will beget a scandalous bartering of votes and bargaining for places." This separation of powers between the President and Senate is also present in the (immediately preceding)
Treaty Clause The Treaty Clause is part of Article Two of the United States Constitution, Article II, Section 2, Clause 2 of the United States Constitution that empowers the President of the United States to propose and chiefly negotiate agreements between the ...
of the Constitution, which gives international treaty-making power to the President, but attaches to it the proviso of the Senate's advice and consent. Several Constitutional Convention (United States)#Framers of the Constitution, framers of the U.S. Constitution explained that the required role of the Senate is to advise the President ''after'' the nomination has been made by the President. Roger Sherman believed that advice ''before'' nomination could still be helpful. Likewise, President George Washington took the position that pre-nomination advice was allowable but not mandatory. The notion that pre-nomination advice is optional has developed into the unification of the "advice" portion of the power with the "consent" portion, although several Presidents have consulted informally with Senators over nominations and treaties. The actual motion adopted by the Senate when exercising the power is "to advise and consent", which shows how initial advice on nominations and treaties is not a formal power exercised by the Senate. On Nov. 21, 2013, the Senate changed its rules regarding the number of votes needed to end debate on a presidential nomination and bring it to a vote. Before that date, a minority of senators could engage in a filibuster and block a vote on a nomination unless three-fifths of senators voted to end debate. Under the new rules, a simple majority is all that is needed to end debate. The only exception was for nominations to the Supreme Court of the United States, which could still be blocked from going to a vote by a filibuster, until the Senate rules were again changed on April 6th, 2017 during Senate debate on the nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. Congress itself may not exercise the appointment power; its functions are limited to the Senate's role in advice and consent, and to deciding whether to vest a direct appointment power over a given office in the President, a Head of Department, or the Courts of Law. The Framers of the U.S. Constitution were particularly concerned that Congress might seek to exercise the appointment power and fill offices with their supporters, to the derogation of the President's control over the executive branch. The Appointments Clause thus functions as a restraint on Congress and as an important structural element in the separation of powers. Attempts by Congress to circumvent the Appointments Clause, either by making appointments directly, or through devices such as "unilaterally appointing an incumbent to a new and distinct office" under the guise of legislating new duties for an existing office", have been rebuffed by the courts.

Appointment of inferior officers

The Appointments Clause distinguishes between officer of the United States, officers of the United States who must be appointed with the Advice and consent#United States, advice and consent of the Senate; and those who may be specified by acts of Congress, some of whom may be appointed with the advice and consent of the Senate, but whose appointment Congress may place instead in the President alone, in the Courts of Law, or in the Heads of Departments. This last group are commonly referred to as "inferior officers". An earlier proposed draft of the Appointments Clause would have given the President a broader power to "appoint officers in all cases not otherwise provided for by this Constitution," but some delegates of the Philadelphia Constitutional Convention worried that this language would permit the President to create offices as well as to fill them, a classic case of institutional corruption. The requirement that the President can appoint inferior officers only when Congress has "by Law vest[ed]" that power in the President sought to preclude that possibility. One chief question recurs under the "by Law" language: Who are "inferior Officers," not subject to the requirement of advice and consent; and (2) what constitutes a "Department," when Congress seeks to place the appointment power away from the President? As an initial matter, most government employees are not officers and thus are not subject to the Appointments Clause. In ''Buckley v. Valeo'', the Supreme Court held that only those appointees "exercising significant authority pursuant to the laws of the United States" are "Officers of the United States," and hence it is only those who exercise such "significant authority" who must be appointed by a mechanism set forth in the Appointments Clause. The Framers did not define the line between principal officers and inferior officers, and the Supreme Court has been content to approach the analysis on a case-by-case basis rather than through a definitive test. The Court listed in ''Morrison v. Olson'' (1988) certain factors as hallmarks of "inferior Officer" status, such as removability by a higher executive branch official other than the President, and limitations on the officer's duties, jurisdiction, and tenure. In ''Edmond v. United States'' (1997) the Court stated that "‘inferior Officers' are officers whose work is directed and supervised at some level by others who were appointed by Presidential nomination with the advice and consent of the Senate." Among those officers recognized as "inferior" are district court clerks, federal supervisors of elections, the Watergate Special Prosecutor, and an Independent Counsel appointed under the Ethics in Government Act of 1978. In ''Lucia v. SEC'', 585 U.S. ___ (2018), decided in June 2018, the United States Supreme Court held that administrative law judges are Inferior Officers within the meaning of the Appointments Clause of the United States Constitution.

Appointments by heads of departments

Another chief question is, what constitutes a "Department," when Congress seeks to place the appointment power away from the President? The phrase "Heads of Departments" has not been precisely defined by the Supreme Court. On the one hand, judicial interpretations of the phrase refer to the heads of departments that are within the executive branch, or according to ''Buckley v. Valeo'' "at least have some connection with that branch." Under this view, the heads of all agencies and departments exercising executive power under the President would seem to qualify as "Heads of Departments." The Court interpreted in ''Freytag v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue'' (1991) "Heads of Departments" to refer "to executive divisions like the Cabinet-level departments." The use of the phrase "like the Cabinet-level departments" could mean that, in addition to the Cabinet departments, other entities within the executive branch that are sufficiently analogous to the Cabinet departments may qualify as "Departments" for purposes of the Appointments Clause. On the other hand, the Freytag Decision itself seemed unclear what it meant by the phrase "like the Cabinet-level departments," and certainly stepped back from any bright-line test. The Freytag Decision sought to harmonize its analysis with the interpretation given the different term "executive Departments" in the Article Two of the United States Constitution#Clause 1: Command of military.3B Opinions of cabinet secretaries.3B Pardons, Opinion Clause (which has been interpreted to refer only to Cabinet departments) and with earlier cases that suggested that only the Cabinet Secretaries qualified as "Heads of Departments." Ultimately, the Freytag Decision seems to have reserved the question whether the heads of non-Cabinet executive-branch agencies could be deemed to be "Heads of Departments" for purposes of the Appointments Clause. Perhaps the phrase "like the Cabinet-level departments" was included in Freytag as an indication that the Court would not necessarily be inflexible about requiring Cabinet status in future cases. If that is so, then "Heads of Departments" would appear to include (as Justice Antonin Scalia reasons in his concurrence in Freytag) the heads of the Cabinet Departments and also the heads of "all independent executive establishments." From 1999 to 2008, a change in the statute governing the United States Patent and Trademark Office ("USPTO") permitted a number of judges of the Board of Patent Appeals and Interferences and the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board to be appointed by the USPTO Director. This arrangement was challenged as unconstitutional under the Appointments Clause because the appointing party was not the Heads of the Department.''Translogic Technology, Inc. v. Dudas'', U.S., No. 07-1303, 10/6/08. In order to avoid the crisis that would result from new challenges to many BPAI and TTAB decisions made in that period, Congress passed a 2008 amendment to the statute which specifies that the Secretary of Commerce is responsible for such appointments, and permitting the Secretary to retroactively appoint those persons named by the USPTO Director.

List of relevant federal court cases

*''United States v. Hartwell'', 73 U.S. (6 Wall.) 385 (1868) *''United States v. Germaine'', 99 U.S. (9 Otto) 508 (1879) *''Ex parte Siebold'', 100 U.S. (10 Otto) 371 (1879) *''Shoemaker v. United States'', 147 U.S. 282 (1893) *''Myers v. United States'', 272 U.S. 52 (1926) *''Springer v. Philippine Islands'', 277 U.S. 189 (1928) *''Humphrey's Executor v. United States'', 295 U.S. 602 (1935) *''Buckley v. Valeo'', 424 U.S. 1 (1976) *''Morrison v. Olson'', 487 U.S. 654 (1988) *''Freytag v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue'', 501 U.S. 868 (1991) *''Weiss v. United States'', 510 U.S. 163 (1994) *''Edmond v. United States'', 520 U.S. 651 (1997) *''Free Enterprise Fund v. Public Company Accounting Oversight Board'', 561 U.S. 477 (2010) *''NLRB v. Noel Canning'', 573 U.S. ___ (2014) *''NLRB v. SW General, Inc.'', 580 U.S. ____ (2017) *''Lucia v. SEC'', 585 U.S. ___ (2018) *''Ortiz v. United States'', 585 U.S. ____ (2018) *''Financial Oversight and Management Board for Puerto Rico v. Aurelius Investment, LLC'', 590, U.S. ___ (2020) *''Seila Law v. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau'', 590, U.S. ___ (2020)

See also

*List of clauses of the United States Constitution *List of positions filled by presidential appointment with Senate confirmation *The Tenure of Office Acts of Tenure of Office Act (1820), 1820 and Tenure of Office Act (1867), 1867 *Recess appointment, the authority granted the president by Article II, Section 2, Clause 3, to make appointments which would otherwise require Senate confirmation during a recess of the Senate


External links

Officers of the United States Within the Meaning of the Appointments Clause
a 2007 Memorandum Opinion for the General Councils of the Executive Branch {{DEFAULTSORT:Appointments Clause Of The United States Constitution Clauses of the United States Constitution Legislative branch of the United States government Legal history of the United States United States Senate Appointments Clause case law, *