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Senate confirmation hearings on Cabinet
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Students will be able to:
- Explain the confirmation process of presidential nominees to the Cabinet.
- Compose a list of questions to ask at a confirmation hearing.
National Council for the Social Studies
VI. Power, authority and governance
High school students should study the various systems that have been developed over the centuries to allocate and employ power and authority in the governing process.
1. Explain that people representing each of the 14 executive departments make up a presidential Cabinet. The Vice President may also participate in Cabinet meetings, and sometimes other individuals may offer their expertise.
2. Have students read the CNNfyi.com article "Senate's advice and consent," then ask the following:
- Why does the Senate have the authority to approve or deny presidential nominees for the Cabinet?
- Does the entire Senate interview the nominee? When would the entire Senate, and not only a committee, have the authority to vote on a nominee?
- Does a nominee need to win by majority or consensus? Explain the difference.
- Why were confirmation hearings held in private before 1929? Why did this procedure change?
- Linda Chavez, President-elect George W. Bush's short-lived labor secretary designee, blamed the "search-and-destroy politics" of Washington for derailing her nomination. Chavez withdrew her name from consideration after questions arose over an illegal immigrant who stayed with her and provided household help in the early 1990s. What do you think Chavez meant by this comment?
3. Remind the students that this Congress is split with 50 Democrats and 50 Republicans. Have a class discussion about how this will affect confirmations of Bush's nominees.
4. Direct students to their textbooks and other resources to research the system of checks and balances. Discuss how the Senate confirmation process illustrates this system and how this is a vital element of a democratic republic.
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