In the United States, all "Inferior officers" must be confirmed by the Senate, unless the confiring authority is delegated as per Article 2 Section 2 Clause 2 of the constitution:

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, whose Appointments are not herein other- wise provided for, and which shall be established by Law: but the Congress may by Law vest the Appointment of such inferior Officers, as they think proper, in the President alone, in the Courts of Law, or in the Heads of Departments.

In addition, all Civil Officers of the United States are subject to impeachment as stated in Article II Section 4 of the U.S. Constituion:

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.

However, no where is it mentioned in the constitution can congress delegate the ability of impeaching executive officers to anyone else. That is, unlike confirmation, impeaching inferior officers of the executive branch can only be done in the way outlined in the first part of Article I, Section 3 Clause 6 (emphasis mine):

The Senate shall have the sole Power to try all Impeachments. When sitting for that Purpose, they shall be on Oath or Affirmation. When the President of the United States is tried, the Chief Justice shall preside: And no Person shall be convicted without the Concurrence of two thirds of the Members present.

The ability to delegate one but not the other seems like an inconsistency to me. Hence I wanted to know...


Why is the Senate able to delegate it's confirmation authority for inferior officers of the President, but not delegate it's impeachment authority for inferior officers likewise?

1 Answer 1


Congress doesn't delegate its confirmation authority; it declares that an office doesn't need confirmation and can be appointed by the executive or judicial branches without Congressional involvement. Congress can likewise declare that an office doesn't need impeachment for the occupant to be removed for misconduct; in fact, that's the case for every office except the President, VP, and life-tenured federal judges. Every other officer can be fired for misconduct in office by the executive or judicial branch without Congressional involvement.

  • I couldn't actually find what policy explicitly allows congress to declare that an office doesn't need impeachment. That is very interesting to me. Could you provide a source for that?
    – isakbob
    Nov 15, 2019 at 15:43
  • 2
    @isakbob IANAL but if the congressional statue says that the Secretary of Foobar serves at the pleasure of the President, then if the President fires the Secretary of Foobar it is not a "premature termination". The Congress can still impeach and convict the Secretary of Foobar, but Congressional action is glacial and most presidents (and cabinet officers) are politically astute and will sense the obvious long before the House can pull the trigger.
    – emory
    Nov 18, 2019 at 22:17
  • 1
    It should be noted that in general the only limits on cabinet terms are the pleasure of the president (and of course impeachment). It is only custom that cabinet officers resign at the conclusion of their president's term but if the new president is OK with it, they can continue serving in the new administration.
    – emory
    Nov 19, 2019 at 1:13
  • 1
    @emory Ah ok, while de jure impeachment is still applicable to the inferior offices, de facto it really doesn't need to occur given the cirumcstances you described. Am I right in that assertion?
    – isakbob
    Nov 19, 2019 at 13:49
  • 1
    @isakbob William W Belknap (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/…) is the only Cabinet officer (aka inferior officer) to have been impeached. It seems his resignation saved him from conviction b/c many Senators would have voted for conviction but felt they lacked jurisdiction.
    – emory
    Nov 19, 2019 at 13:59

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .