Transition team

NOMINEE

ANNOUNCED

disclosures

In committee

VETTING

AND HEARINGS

COMMITTEE

Vote

ENTIRE Senate

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FULL SENATE

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NOMINEE

CONFIRMED

Transition team

In committee

ENTIRE Senate

NOMINEE

ANNOUNCED

VETTING

AND HEARINGS

FLOOR

DEBATE

COMMITTEE

Vote

disclosures

FULL SENATE

VOTE

NOMINEE

CONFIRMED

Transition team

In committee

ENTIRE Senate

START HERE

NOMINEE

ANNOUNCED

VETTING

AND HEARINGS

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DEBATE

COMMITTEE

Vote

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disclosures

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Donald Trump’s nominees for top executive posts will visit Capitol Hill this week for a series of hearings in front of Senate committees. The ritual is part of the Senate’s constitutional duty to “advise and consent” on presidential nominations.

Below, see the steps to confirmation, from being named the president-elect’s pick to a majority vote on the Senate floor.

A nominee is announced.

Selecting nominees for the Cabinet and other top executive positions is one of the most important, and time-consuming, parts of the presidential transition.

Among other considerations, the team needs to find someone who: 1) can and will carry out the Trump policy vision in the selected role; 2) isn’t so controversial as to not be confirmed in the Senate; and 3) doesn’t create other political problems by vacating the position they currently hold.

As of Monday, Trump has mostly filled his Cabinet, with only two major department heads left to name.

The nominee prepares for Senate vetting.

Once a pick is identified, the transition team continues formal background checks and mock hearings to ready him or her for the Senate.

The Office of Government Ethics reviews the complex financial disclosure rules with the nominee and identifies steps they must take to eliminate conflicts of interest.

It’s unlikely that these reviews will be completed before several hearings begin this week, the director of the office warned Friday, though there is some precedent for hearings to go ahead beforehand.

Then, they are sent to committee.

In most cases, the nomination is referred to a committee of 20 to 30 senators who will investigate and question the nominee. Since they hold the majority in the chamber, Republicans get one or two more seats than Democrats on the panels.

Each committee operates under its own set of rules but they often solicit an FBI check as well as a questionnaire and other financial disclosures from the nominee. He or she can also meet with lawmakers to develop a rapport before hearings begin, as some of Trump’s picks have already done.

At the public hearings, senators question the nominee’s past and the policy positions of the new administration in their jurisdiction. This is where Democrats hope to turn the process into a slog by asking for multiple rounds of questioning and trying to limit the schedule for hearings for eight of the more controversial nominees.

The committee votes.

The committee then reports its judgment on the nominee to the entire Senate. To approve, a majority of senators present must vote favorably. The committee could also choose to report without a recommendation, take no action, or, more rarely, report unfavorably.

On most committees, a single Republican defection could spell defeat for the nominee, as The Post’s Karoun Demirjian explains here for the case of secretary of state nominee Rex Tillerson.

Democrats need only persuade one Republican to oppose Tillerson to block his nomination in committee. But it is still possible he could get to a floor vote even if the committee rejects him. In the past, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has reported out nominations unfavorably, a procedure that expresses the members’ discontent without blocking the full Senate from voting.

The Senate gets a chance to debate.

Once reported out of committee, the nomination is placed on the Executive Calendar, a list of items to be considered by the Senate. The vote can take place after it has been on the calendar for one day, but not until Trump is inaugurated and makes the nomination official.

While Democrats plan to force a series of procedural votes that could stall the process, the Senate’s rules on deliberation were adjusted in recent years to make it less possible to stop nominations altogether (more on this below).

The Senate votes whether to confirm.

Many nominees have been confirmed quickly by an untallied voice vote, as happened with seven Cabinet-level nominees on President Obama’s inauguration day. Democrats could also request a roll call to make each senator’s vote public.

In any case, a majority vote to approve the nominee on the Senate floor means the nominee is confirmed.

Nominee confirmed

What’s different this time around

Most of Trump’s Senate-confirmable nominations are expected to sail through the confirmation process. In the past, the Republican Party’s 52-48 majority would not have secured them enough votes to confirm nominees without some Democratic help. To stop a filibuster, three-fifths of the chamber, or 60 votes, would have been needed to end debate and force a vote.

But Democrats reinterpreted that rule in 2013, saying only a simple majority was required, making it easier to shut down a talkative senator looking to block a confirmation.

That change, dubbed the “nuclear option,” means Democrats have deprived themselves of one of the only methods possible to halt a nomination. Here is how it would have worked if they hadn’t made this change:

Before the ‘nuclear option’

FLOOR

DEBATE

FILIBUSTER

Any member of the Senate could hold the floors for hours. So long as that person didn’t surrender the floor, the debate would continue, stalling a vote.

VOTE TO END DEBATE (CLOTURE)

To end a filibuster required a three-fifths vote, or 60 senators. Once cloture was invoked, senators had a limited amount of time left to debate the bill before a vote.

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Before the ‘nuclear option’

FILIBUSTER

Any member of the Senate could hold the floors for hours. So long as that person didn’t surrender the floor, the debate would continue, stalling a vote.

FLOOR

DEBATE

VOTE TO END DEBATE (CLOTURE)

To end a filibuster required a three-fifths vote, or 60 senators. Once cloture was invoked, senators had a limited amount of time left to debate the bill before a vote.

FULL SENATE

VOTE

This is the first presidential transition without the filibuster on nominations, and with the GOP’s plan to hold many hearings on the same day, it could mean a much quicker confirmation process for Trump’s nominees. (It’s unclear whether Republicans will try to apply this rule to legislation or Supreme Court nominations, which both still require 60 votes to end a filibuster.)

It should also give the president-elect more latitude when deciding whom he will nominate, since he won’t need to attract crossover Democrats to break a logjam in the Senate.

A previous version of the graphic said a two-thirds vote was required for cloture. Three-fifths, or 60 votes, is required.

More stories

How long Cabinet confirmations take — and why past nominees failed

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