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What is Advice and Consent?

Advice and Consent is a constitutional power granted to the U.S. Senate, allowing it to review and approve presidential appointments and treaties. This critical process ensures a balance of power, inviting a collaborative approach to governance. How does this impact the political landscape, and why does it matter to you? Explore the significance of this democratic safeguard with us.
Constance Simmons
Constance Simmons

In the United States, advice and consent is the term used to describe the role of the Senate in limiting the powers of the president regarding appointments and treaties. For example, under the U.S. Constitution, the president's nominations for posts do not take effect unless they are confirmed by the Senate, and treaties do not take effect unless they receive approval from the Senate by a two-thirds vote. Advice and consent is an example of the Constitutional principle of checks and balances because it limits the power of the executive branch by requiring legislative approval. The term originated in England and is most often utilized in governments that limit the power of their chief executive.

In the United States, the provision of advice and consent was added to the Constitution as a compromise to maintain the balance of power between the legislative and executive branches of government. After the American Revolution, the founding fathers were reluctant to give a chief executive too much power because of the abuses that the colonists believed they had suffered under King George III. The concept of advice and consent added to the Constitution was one measure to ensure that the president’s power was kept in balance with the other branches of government.

The first US president, George Washington, considered advice before a nomination to be optional.
The first US president, George Washington, considered advice before a nomination to be optional.

The Constitution of the United States established the usage of advice and consent in Article II. The Senate is to consult and give its approval on all treaties signed and all appointments made by the president. These appointments include positions such as cabinet members, federal judges and ambassadors. The president first nominates someone, then must get two-thirds approval from the Senate to appoint the nominee. It is important to note, however, that without support from three-fifths of the Senate, a filibuster can block the appointment.

Under the U.S. Constitution, any treaty the president has signed must be ratified by the Senate.
Under the U.S. Constitution, any treaty the president has signed must be ratified by the Senate.

The powers of advice and consent were given to the Senate because it is considered the upper house of the bicameral legislative branch of the United States, which also includes the lower House of Representatives. The requirements to be a senator are more stringent, and senators also serve longer terms, so they are less likely to bend to public opinion. The framers of the Constitution thought that because of this, senators could serve as resources from whom the president could seek advice.

The founding fathers wanted to ensure the president did not have too much power.
The founding fathers wanted to ensure the president did not have too much power.

The term advice and consent also is found in the United States in state constitutions. Its usage is similar to that in the U.S. Constitution because it requires the chief executive of the state, the governor, to have his or her nominations approved by the state senate before those nominated are appointed. State governors appoint cabinet members, department heads and, in some instances, state judges.

Advise and consent is a type of checks and balances that limits the power of the executive branch by requiring legislative approval.
Advise and consent is a type of checks and balances that limits the power of the executive branch by requiring legislative approval.

Exercising advice and consent in the United States has evolved over time. George Washington thought that advice before nominations was optional. Modern presidents typically do not publicly announce their nominations for federal judges or other positions before meeting privately with senators. The advice of the Senate also is implemented when creating treaties by inviting Senators either to participate in negotiations or to observe the negotiations.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does "advice and consent" mean in the context of the U.S. government?

"Advice and consent" is a constitutional term found in Article II, Section 2, Clause 2 of the United States Constitution. It refers to the power of the Senate to review and approve or reject presidential appointments to executive and judicial branch positions, as well as treaties made by the president with foreign nations. This process ensures a system of checks and balances, where the Senate has a significant role in shaping the executive and judicial branches.

How does the Senate exercise its advice and consent role for Supreme Court nominees?

The Senate exercises its advice and consent role for Supreme Court nominees through a multi-step process. Initially, the president nominates a candidate, who then undergoes a thorough vetting process, including background checks and legal reviews. The nominee appears before the Senate Judiciary Committee for public hearings, where they answer questions about their qualifications and judicial philosophy. Following the hearings, the committee votes on whether to recommend the nominee to the full Senate, which then debates and casts a final vote to confirm or reject the nominee.

What majority is required in the Senate to approve a presidential appointment or treaty?

To approve a presidential appointment or treaty, the Senate typically requires a simple majority vote, which is more than half of the senators present and voting. However, for treaties, the Constitution specifies a two-thirds majority of senators present is necessary for ratification. This higher threshold for treaties reflects the significance and long-term implications of international agreements.

Can the Senate modify a treaty during the advice and consent process?

Yes, the Senate can modify a treaty during the advice and consent process. While the Senate cannot directly alter the text of a treaty, it can attach reservations, understandings, or declarations to its resolution of ratification. These conditions effectively change the obligations or the interpretation of the treaty for the United States. The other treaty parties must then accept these modifications for them to take effect.

What happens if the Senate rejects a presidential appointment or treaty?

If the Senate rejects a presidential appointment, the nominee does not assume the office, and the president must select another candidate. For a treaty, rejection means the treaty is not ratified and does not become legally binding for the United States. The president may attempt to renegotiate the treaty terms or seek a new agreement that could gain Senate approval. In some cases, the administration may also pursue alternative executive agreements that do not require Senate consent.

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    • The first US president, George Washington, considered advice before a nomination to be optional.
      By: Georgios Kollidas
      The first US president, George Washington, considered advice before a nomination to be optional.
    • Under the U.S. Constitution, any treaty the president has signed must be ratified by the Senate.
      By: James Steidl
      Under the U.S. Constitution, any treaty the president has signed must be ratified by the Senate.
    • The founding fathers wanted to ensure the president did not have too much power.
      By: trekandshoot
      The founding fathers wanted to ensure the president did not have too much power.
    • Advise and consent is a type of checks and balances that limits the power of the executive branch by requiring legislative approval.
      By: sborisov
      Advise and consent is a type of checks and balances that limits the power of the executive branch by requiring legislative approval.