Can the U.S. President Dismiss the Secretary of State?

Congress wrote the Tenure of Office Act to stop President Andrew Johnson from dismissing the Cabinet chosen by Abraham Lincoln.
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The American president can dismiss the secretary of state without recourse from the Supreme Court or Congress. Article II, Section 2, Clause 2 of the Constitution authorizes presidents to appoint Cabinet-level officers, including the secretary of state. Congress questioned the power of presidents to remove Cabinet members in 1867, but has since allowed them this prerogative.

1 Appointments Clause

Article II, Section 2, contains the Appointments Clause of the Constitution. This section gives the president the task of choosing high-ranking federal officers. These positions include the secretaries of the various Cabinet departments. Presidents and legal scholars traditionally considered the power to fire a corollary of the power to hire.

2 Tenure of Office Act

The Appointments Clause requires presidents to seek the advice and consent of the Senate on the suitability of nominees for Cabinet jobs. After a president announces a nomination, the Senate meets to decide whether to confirm the decision. In 1867, Congress passed the Tenure of Office Act to force presidents to also receive Senate consent before removing high-ranking federal officers. At the time, congressional Republicans feared that Democratic President Andrew Johnson would replace the Cabinet chosen by Republican Abraham Lincoln, his assassinated predecessor. Congress rescinded this law in 1887.

David Kenneth has a Ph.D. in history. His work has been published in "The Journal of Southern History," "The Georgia Historical Quarterly," "The Southern Historian," "The Journal of Mississippi History" and "The Oxford University Companion to American Law." Kenneth has been working as a writer since 1999.