The responsibility of confirming presidential appointments was given to Congress -- specifically the Senate -- in 1789 when the U.S. Constitution was ratified. Ironically, this power was not spelled out in Article I of the Constitution, which establishes the legislative branch of government, but in Article II, which deals with the executive branch.

Advice and Consent

Article II, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution grants the U.S. President the power to appoint ambassadors, public ministers, consuls, Supreme Court justices and all other federal officers whose positions are established by law "by and with the advice and consent of the Senate." The majority of presidential appointments are approved quickly, but high profile appointments generally go through a more rigorous process of examination by the Senate.

The Process

The appointee is first considered by a committee of Senators, who give their recommendation to the Senate. The President of the Senate then asks, "Will the Senate advise and consent to this nomination?" The Senate then debates whether to approve the appointment. A simple majority is sufficient for approval of an appointee, but the appointment process is sometimes delayed by rigorous investigation of the appointee or by filibuster.