December 6, 2016
Presidential Treatment – What Happens When a Member of Congress is Nominated to the Administration
Every Presidential administration looks to the ranks of Congress to fill some positions in the Executive Branch. President-elect Donald Trump’s transition is no exception. To date he has nominated a number of current sitting members of Congress to prominent positions in his administration.
Most recently, the Trump-Pence transition team announced House Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price (R-GA) would be nominated to the office of the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS). Trump also announced the nomination of Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) as Attorney General and Kansas Congressman Mike Pompeo as Director of the Central Intelligence Agency.
As a general rule the members maintain their roles through their successful confirmation vote by the Senate. Once a member is confirmed, they submit their letters of resignation, which triggers the respective processes to fill their roles in Congress. A member is free to resign their seat in Congress at their discretion, although that is unlikely to occur prior to a successful confirmation vote. Senate vacancies can be filled by appointment, while House vacancies must be filled by elections. Each State has its own set of rules for the processes to resolve these vacancies.
The race to replace Chairman Price at the House Budget Committee is already underway even though that vacancy will not occur for at least a couple of months. Rep. Todd Rokita (R-IN), the current Vice-Chair of the Committee has announced his desire to succeed Dr. Price as Chairman. Others are certainly evaluating the opportunity.
Chairman Price will want to stay on as Budget Committee chairman through the Presidential inauguration, especially as it looks more and more likely that Congress will push to revive the fiscal 2017 budget resolution which includes repeal of the Affordable Care Act through budget reconciliation.
Sen. Sessions’ confirmation as attorney general raises some procedural questions. Sen. Sessions is a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which votes first on attorney general nominations before it heads to the full Senate. Republicans currently hold a two-seat margin over Democrats on the Committee. However, with Republicans holding a narrower 52-seat majority at best next Congress, all committee ratios will need to be renegotiated. It is possible, therefore, that this would leave Judiciary Committee Republicans with a single seat majority. This means that the deciding vote would be left to none other than Sen. Sessions if Democrats on the Committee all vote against him. If his nomination reaches the Senate floor, Sessions should receive a yes vote from a number of senators who may have opposed his nomination; Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) has voiced his support for Sessions, as have Republican opponents of candidate Trump such as Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) on the Committee, and Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME).
Armstrong has been getting things done in Washington for more than a decade. Directly for Members of Congress and for Clients, he has developed astute game-plans including coalitions, communications, legislative and political strategies for positively affecting outcomes. Army works with Prime Policy Group’s clients in areas including Tax, Energy, Healthcare, Appropriations, Budget, Financial Services, Technology and Data.
Jacob is a Client Executive at Prime Policy Group, where he is an integral member of the Firm’s research team.