Is it possible for a United States Secretary to be removed by the House of Representatives or the Senate?

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    The Senate is part of Congress, by the way, so "the Congress or the Senate" doesn't really make sense; possibly you meant "by the House or the Senate" – Michael Mrozek Dec 6 '12 at 0:48
  • @MichaelMrozek You are totally right. – Alberto Bonsanto Dec 6 '12 at 0:53
  • I changed it to reflect that meaning. The first version was imho clear about that point. – Sven Clement Dec 6 '12 at 0:53

Not directly, as:

Members of the Cabinet serve at the pleasure of the President, which means that the President may dismiss them or reappoint them (to other posts) at will.

Nonetheless can Congress get rid of a criminal secretary via its Congressional oversight powers and by using the Impeachment procedure (cf Article 2, Section 4 of the U.S. Constitution), but only if they are found guilty of some sort of crime.

Impeachment is a two-step process. First the House of Representatives impeaches the official and only after that does the Senate try him. If found guilty by the Senate the official is immediately removed from his duties.

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  • @MichaelMrozek Good idea to combine both answers ;) – Sven Clement Dec 6 '12 at 0:48
  • I tried not to change your meaning, I just rearranged it because I read it wrong the first time – Michael Mrozek Dec 6 '12 at 0:49
  • No problem, I added some more details about the impeachment procedure. Thanks for the ref re: the constitution! – Sven Clement Dec 6 '12 at 0:52
  • It might be worth mentioning that a secretary facing impeachment would probably resign or be dismissed before the impeachment got very far. – phoog Jul 15 '18 at 18:23
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    Not quite correct. Impeachment would be directly removing someone, for one. For another, they don't have to first be convicted in a criminal court or tribunal. The finding of "guilty of crimes" is actually the ones the House would impeach them for, which is pretty much open to whatever they want it to be, and conviction by the Senate. Won't down-vote it, but this is far enough off the mark that it shouldn't really be the accepted answer. – PoloHoleSet Jul 16 '18 at 14:30

Yes, but not just because they feel like it. Cabinet secretaries are civil officers, so they fall under impeachment rules. Article 2, Section 4 of the U.S. Constitution says:

The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.

All impeachments require both Congressional houses; the House of Representatives impeaches the official, and the Senate tries them. I think historically it's only happened once to a secretary; William Belknap, Grant's Secretary of War, was impeached in 1876.

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The "Separation of Powers" principle of the Constitution makes Cabinet Secretaries of the Executive branch answerable to the President, not to Congress.

Nevertheless, Congress has a very limited Constitutional right to remove these members of the Executive Branch through the same mechanism as they can remove the President himself; through "impeachment" for "high crimes and misdemeanors."

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