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What you need to know about the Senate confirmation hearings

Hearings on President-elect Donald Trump's appointments begin Tuesday.

Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions with President-elect Donald Trump.

Reuters

With just 10 days until Donald Trump is sworn in as the nation's 45th president, Capitol Hill is preparing for an administration change. This week, the Senate will vet the candidates Trump has tapped to lead federal agencies, readying his cabinet for Day One.

Who needs Senate confirmation?

The secretaries of agriculture, commerce, defense, education, energy, health and human services, homeland security, housing and urban development, interior, labor, state, transportation, treasury and veterans affairs. Appointees for attorney general, director of the Office of Management and Budget, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, ambassador to the United Nations and administrator of the Small Business Administration.

White House chiefs of staff and advisers do not need confirmation.

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When are appointees scheduled for hearings?

Trump's attorney general pick, Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, and secretary of Homeland Security retired Marine Corps Gen. John Kelly will face questioning from Senate committees Tuesday.

On Wednesday, Rex Tillerson (secretary of state), Elaine Chao (Transportation secretary), Mike Pompeo (CIA director), and Betsy DeVos (Education secretary) will sit before Senate committees.

Retired Gen. James Mattis (Defense secretary); Ben Carson (Housing and Urban Development secretary); and Wilbur Ross (Commerce secretary) will face questioning from senators.

Hearings for Andy Puzder (Labor secretary) on Jan. 17, andGov. Nikki Haley to U.N. Ambassador on Jan. 18 are tentative.

How does a Senate hearing work?

Once Trump announced his nominees, candidates are vetted and hearings are held by relevant committees.

Committee members will question candidates, and offer support or criticism of appointees. Then, the nomination can be sent to the floor for a full Senate vote — favorable recommendation, unfavorable recommendation or no recommendation.

If it is not sent to the Senate floor, senators can invoke cloture or a debate, over a nominee, for no more than 30 hours.

Once cloture is called, Senate members must wait until a second day to vote. Simple majority is then required for approval.

When are they confirmed?

Technically, no appointee can be confirmed before Trump is sworn in on Jan. 20. But the practice of vetting and questioning generally takes place in the weeks before inauguration to smooth the transition and reduce the wait time until a new administration can get to work.

What if a nominee is rejected?

It's rare, but Trump will have to name a new appointee, and the hearing process will begin again.

According to the Washington Times, only nine cabinet nominees in U.S. history have been defeated in Senate hearings; 12 others have withdrawn, facing strong opposition.

How can I watch?

PBS NewsHouris running a live-stream on YouTube:

 
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