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The Confirmation Hearing Schedule Is Packed — Again

UPDATE (Jan. 9, 11:16 p.m.): The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions announced on Monday night that the confirmation hearing for Betsy DeVos, Donald Trump’s nominee for secretary of education, will be moved to Jan. 17. With that change, there are four hearings scheduled for Wednesday, not five.


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On Wednesday, five of Donald Trump’s nominees for high-level administration positions are scheduled to face Senate committees for their confirmation hearings. Some Democrats say that the number of hearings1 taking place in a single day — the same day on which Trump is scheduled to hold his first news conference since July, potentially drawing attention away from the hearings — won’t give senators or the public enough of a chance to assess the nominees. But scheduling multiple confirmation hearings on the same day — even as many as five — is not particularly rare when the Senate is considering the nominees of recent incoming administrations.

Since 1981, there have been four dates on which the Senate held at least five hearings for Cabinet-level and formerly Cabinet-level positions,2 including two five-hearing days in the lead-up to President Obama taking office. There was one date — Jan. 18, 2001 — when the Senate held six such hearings, discussing George W. Bush’s nominees.

DATE PRESIDENT NUMBER OF HEARINGS
Jan. 18, 2001 George W. Bush 6
Jan. 15, 2009 Barack Obama 5
Jan. 11, 2017 Donald Trump 5
Jan. 13, 2009 Barack Obama 5
Jan. 6, 1981 Ronald Reagan 5
Jan. 17, 2001 George W. Bush 4
Jan. 7, 1993 Bill Clinton 4
Jan. 19, 1993 Bill Clinton 4
Jan. 21, 1993 Bill Clinton 4
Jan. 14, 2009 Barack Obama 4
Jan. 19, 2001 George W. Bush 4
Jan. 12, 2017 Donald Trump 3
Jan. 26, 1989 George H.W. Bush 3
Jan. 12, 1993 Bill Clinton 3
Jan. 14, 1993 Bill Clinton 3
Jan. 12, 1981 Ronald Reagan 3
Jan. 24, 2001 George W. Bush 2
Jan. 15, 1981 Ronald Reagan 2
Jan. 19, 1989 George H.W. Bush 2
Jan. 21, 2009 Barack Obama 2
Jan. 13, 1981 Ronald Reagan 2
Jan. 27, 1989 George H.W. Bush 2
Jan. 11, 1993 Bill Clinton 2
Jan. 10, 2017 Donald Trump 2
Jan. 7, 1981 Ronald Reagan 2
Jan. 8, 1981 Ronald Reagan 2
Jan. 25, 1989 George H.W. Bush 2
Multiple confirmation hearings held on the same date, since 1981

Incoming administrations only. Includes positions that were Cabinet rank or formerly Cabinet rank; does not include nominees who were chosen for the position before it became Cabinet rank.

Sources: Congressional Research Service; news reports; committee websites

That’s not to say such jam-packed schedules are good. Scheduling multiple hearings on the same day forces many senators to split their time. Six senators, for example, sit on both the Foreign Relations Committee, which will hold the hearing on Secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson at 9:15 a.m. on Wednesday, and on the Commerce Committee, which will hold the hearing on Transportation Secretary nominee Elaine Chao at 10:15 a.m. Five senators are on both the Foreign Relations Committee and the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, which will hold the hearing on Trump’s choice for secretary of education, Betsy DeVos, at 10 a.m. In all, there are 28 senators who sit on more than one of the committees that are scheduled to hold confirmation hearings on Wednesday.

Still, it’s fairly typical for the Senate to hold multiple hearings in a day when considering the Cabinet nominees of incoming presidents. Some officials, however, have raised another scheduling-related complaint: The Office of Government Ethics reports that it is concerned that several of Trump’s nominees haven’t completed the ethics review process, meaning that some nominees may have ethical issues that have not yet been revealed or addressed.

Footnotes

  1. Some earlier reports said there would be six hearings on Wednesday, including that of the Homeland Security nominee; that hearing is scheduled for Tuesday.
  2. One of the hearings on Wednesday is for Mike Pompeo, whom Trump has nominated to be CIA director. That job is not currently a Cabinet-level position, but it has been under some presidents. To compare Wednesday’s hearing schedule with previous schedules, I included positions that were Cabinet-level at the time of the hearing or had been Cabinet-level before that time.

Aaron Bycoffe is a computational journalist for FiveThirtyEight.

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