The Advice and Consent of the Senate

The Advice and Consent of the Senate

Under Article II of the Constitution, presidential nominations for executive and judicial appointments take effect when confirmed by the Senate, and international treaties become effective when the Senate approves them by a two-thirds vote. When those Constitutional provisions were ratified, U.S. Senators were not directly elected, but were appointed by state government legislative bodies. Likewise, the founder's society was small, relatively self-sufficient, and agrarian. Today, our country extends across the continent; we are no longer a nation of farmers; and, our economic and security interests are closely tied to those of other countries. The founders never envisioned the great need for, and expansion and increased role of, the federal judiciary. They never envisioned the great need for international cooperation so vital to our country's prosperity and security. The recent debate over the judicial filibuster, covered extensively by a media network, also never envisioned by the founders, was no less than a debate about the role and powers of the three branches of government in a country that is quite different in 2005 from our country in 1787.

How should the President and Senate work together under the advice and consent clause of the Constitution? Of what value today are the arguments made by the writers of the Constitution about the role of the Senate and President in judicial appointments and treaty making? Should we focus more on the advice rather than the consent role of the Senate in judicial nominations and treaty making? The discussion starters under this topic explore the contemporary and historical meaning of "advice and consent."

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