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The Senate has to approve a cabinet member's hiring, but not their firing. If the existing head of a cabinet is fired, acting heads are typically assigned based on a line of succession. In this hypothetical, let us assume that the top 3 candidates in line of succession are from the opposite party and the 4th person in line would represent the interest of the President.

If the Senate and the president are from opposing parties, is it possible for a president to circumvent the Senate confirmation process by selectively firing the top three people in line thereby making the fourth person the acting cabinet members? How long can the acting head act without being confirmed by the Senate?

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    This is something that the Supreme Court would have to rule upon, if any President were to ever try this. – Joe C Nov 7 '20 at 21:13
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In theory, this could be done. However, it isn’t necessary in practice because both sides accept the general principal that the President should be allowed to pick his own Cabinet, no matter how much Senators may dislike the specific appointees. It’s the same for ambassadors and other executive branch appointees. Notably, all of these are easily removed later if needed, and few survive a party change, so the impact of a bad choice is fairly limited.

It is different in the case of judges and justices, who are appointed for life. Since removing them requires impeachment, the confirmation hearings involve a lot more scrutiny—if the Senate even agrees to hold the hearings at all.

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    "because both sides accept the general principal that the President should be allowed to pick his own Cabinet, no matter how much Senators may dislike the specific appointees" since many such precedents have radically changed in recent times, this answer could be improved by mentioning 2 Republican Senators who explicitly support this stance, in the context of the Biden presidency. – Peter Nov 8 '20 at 9:58
  • @Peter That's interesting. Who are the two Republican Senators who explicitly support this stance? – Sudharsan Madhavan Nov 8 '20 at 16:00
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    @SudharsanMadhavan - I'm guessing that Peter's implying that unless there are two Republican Senators who support this stance, to let Biden get the 50 votes for approval, then it's quite possible to say that the Republicans will act together agains that principal. – Bobson Nov 8 '20 at 19:36
  • @Bobson Thanks for explaining. Do we actually know of at least a couple of Republican senators who support this stance? – Sudharsan Madhavan Nov 9 '20 at 1:10
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    @SudharsanMadhavan - I haven't heard anything about any of them, but it's probably still too soon to know. This kind of thing isn't likely to be discussed much until January, when the new Congress meets, and particularly until after people know the results of the two run-off Senate elections in Georgia. – Bobson Nov 9 '20 at 1:42

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