Ever since the Constitution's adoption, the Senate has exercised its advise and consent role by occasionally withholding its consent. Here are some landmark battles over the president's power to appoint judges and executive branch officials.
First executive branch appointee rejected:
The Senate surprised President George Washington by rejecting the nomination of Benjamin Fishbourn to run the port of Savannah in Georgia. Fishbourn was singled out from a list of 102 prospective port collectors, naval officers and surveyors. His offense: He had aroused the enmity of James Gunn, one of Georgia's first senators. By blocking the nomination, Gunn established the precedent of "senatorial courtesy." To this day, senators are consulted on presidential appointees to serve in their home states, such as district judges and marshals.
First Supreme Court nominee rejected:
The Senate, on a 14-10 vote, rejected Washington's appointment of John Rutledge to be chief justice. Rutledge, chief justice of the South Carolina supreme court and former associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, angered Federalists by opposing the Jay Treaty, which was meant to resolve outstanding issues with England. Critics questioned his sanity, and Rutledge later tried to take his own life.
From 1844 to 1853, the Senate rejected seven of 12 Supreme Court nominees.
First Cabinet nominee rejected:
In 1809, President James Madison dropped plans to appoint the Swiss-born Albert Gallatin, Thomas Jefferson's secretary of the Treasury, as his secretary of state in the face of Senate opposition.
But the first rejection of a cabinet nominee didn't come until June 1834, when the Senate opposed by a 28-18 vote President Andrew Jackson's nomination of Roger B. Taney as Treasury secretary. Taney had been the architect of Jackson's plan to dismantle the Second Bank of the United States. The Senate later blocked Taney's appointment as associate justice of the Supreme Court, but then approved his appointment as chief justice.
1843 Most often rejected nominee:
After the Senate rejected President John Tyler's choice of Caleb Cushing for secretary of the Treasury, Tyler stubbornly sent back Cushing's name twice more -- and each time, it was defeated by wider and wider margins. (Thirty years later, Senate opposition forced President Ulysses S. Grant to withdraw Cushing's nomination to be chief justice of the United States.) The Senate also voted down Tyler's picks for secretary of the Navy and secretary of War, as well as four of his Supreme Court nominees.