Advice and Consent

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Advice and Consent

The authority given by the U.S. Constitution to the Senate to ratify treaties and confirm presidential cabinet, ambassadorial, and judicial appointments.

Article II, Section 2, of the Constitution gives the president the right to negotiate foreign treaties and to nominate individuals to high-ranking government positions, including cabinet members, ambassadors, and federal judges. However, these powers are conditioned upon the advice and consent of the Senate. Section 2 requires the Senate to approve treaties by a two thirds majority, while presidential appointments require a simple majority. The advice and consent requirement is an example of one of the checks and balances built into the Constitution. The provision seeks to limit presidential power.

The Senate has used the treaty ratification authority to extract changes in negotiated treaties and, in some cases, to reject an international agreement. The most famous rejection involved President woodrow wilson's desire to have the United States join the newly created League of Nations after World War I. The Senate, hostile to the concept of international government, refused to ratify the treaty in 1919, which severely weakened the organization. In contrast, the Senate ratified the United Nations charter in 1945.

The advice and consent power has drawn the most public attention when the Senate has rejected presidential nominations to the cabinet and to federal judgeships. The Senate voted down the 1987 Supreme Court nomination of robert bork by President ronald reagan, leading to charges that the Senate had politicized the confirmation process. Clarence Thomas was confirmed as Supreme Court justice in 1991, but only after a bruising confirmation struggle that was nationally televised. In 2002, the Senate rejected several judicial nominations by President george w. bush, again leading to charges of partisan politics.

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