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In light of Rex Tillerson's firing, why does the Senate have to approve a cabinet member's hiring, but not their firing?

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Simple Answer: The Constitution Says So

The simplest answer is because the Constitution requires the Senate's approval before certain officials are hired, but doesn't mention them being fired.

From Article 2, Section 2:

... and he shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the supreme Court, and all other Officers of the United States ...

Okay, but why?

Federalist paper #76 discusses the appointments clause. The goal is to design a system "to promote a judicious choice of men for filling the offices of the Union". If the goal is to fill high positions with the best candidates, you need to make sure the hiring process is great - not the firing process.

  • "If the goal is to fill high positions with the best candidates, you need to make sure the hiring process is great - not the firing process." Is that really so? What if all the best candidates are fired quickly? Then surely you would not get good candidates anymore quite soon. The constitution was probably just not long enough to deal with all eventualities, leaving it to current people in charge to do the reasonable things. – Trilarion Jan 19 at 14:22
  • @Trilarion: There was a cheerful assumption at the time that there would be a ready supply of wise men dedicated to the service of their country. The writers of the Constitution were somewhat idealistic. – John Dallman Jan 19 at 17:45
  • @JohnDallman: There's a larger supply than when the Constitution was written. The rub is that the vast majority of them prefer the private sector as a means of serving their country (already true when the Constitution was written, but far moreso now). – Ben Voigt Jan 19 at 19:20
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    See also Myers v. United States (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Myers_v._United_States) and the earlier Tenure of Office act, which was implicated in the impeachment of Andrew Johnson. – phoog Jan 19 at 19:46

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