As far as I understand it the US cabinet is nominated by the president, but the senate has to consent to the nominees. The same applies applies to judges of the Supreme Court.

But what happens if the senate does not give consent to a candidate? Would it in the case of the cabinet be an interim cabinet until a candidate is accepted by the senate? Or will there be a vacancy in the cabinet? Is there a risk that there are issues that will need to be taken care of while there's nobody in office?

The same question applies for the Supreme Court, but I assume that normally there would be enough judges to be able to carry out it's obligations even if one judge is missing.

  • Not just the Supreme Court, but all Federal judges. And when the numbers of such appointments are so high, the Senate needn’t turn down a confirmation to cause havoc. Simply being very slow with confirmations and building up a backlog can cause courts to become short staffed.
    – owjburnham
    Nov 27, 2018 at 14:49
  • there will always be acting officials, is the question about their limitations?
    – dandavis
    Nov 27, 2018 at 20:56

1 Answer 1


An acting official can manage a government position until the senate approves a candidate. For example at the time of writing, the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency position is unfilled. The Deputy Administrator is acting as Administrator and has been nominated. Senate hearings are ongoing.

For the supreme court, it can function with fewer than 9 Justices. If 8 Justices are appointed, then it is possible for the court to split 4-4. In which case, the opinion of the lower court stands, as there must be a majority to overturn the decision of the lower court.

It is certainly the case that no having a government position filled can reduce the effectiveness of that branch of government, or slow down the process of federal justice. In theory, nearly all the decisions of the government can be made by the president, who can act as any department head. If decisions need to be made while a post is unfilled, the President has authority to make them.

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