Unsuccessful nominations to the Cabinet of the United States
Members of the Cabinet of the United States are nominated by the president and are then confirmed or rejected by the Senate. Listed below are unsuccessful cabinet nominees—that is, individuals who were nominated and who either declined their own nomination, failed the confirmation vote in the Senate, or whose nomination was withdrawn by the president. The latter category includes near nominations, meaning presumptive choices made by a president or president-elect that never progressed to formal nomination stage. Nominations to cabinet-rank positions are also included in this page.
To date, nine nominations to the cabinet have been rejected by the Senate. In addition, 17 nominations or near nominations have been withdrawn, either by the president or by the person chosen. President John Tyler holds the record for most cabinet nominees rejected by the Senate; four of his nominees failed to win confirmation.
Rejected by the SenateEdit
Roger B. TaneyEdit
In 1833, President Andrew Jackson used a recess appointment to name Roger B. Taney, who was serving as United States Attorney General, as the United States Secretary of the Treasury. Jackson wanted Taney to help him dismantle the Second Bank of the United States. He helped Jackson draft a statement on the veto of the bank's renewal, and agreed to withdraw money from the bank. In an ensuing fight, the Senate rejected Taney by a vote of 28–18 in 1834.
President John Tyler nominated Caleb Cushing for Secretary of the Treasury. Tyler had a contentious relationship with the Senate over his vetos of legislation, and the Senate refused to confirm Cushing for this office on March 3, 1843. Tyler renominated Cushing twice more that day, and both times the Senate rejected his nomination.
David Henshaw became Secretary of the Navy in July 1843, following a recess appointment by Tyler. He was formally nominated in December 1843, and his nomination was rejected by a vote of 34–8 on January 15, 1844, after Navy officers, including Admiral David Farragut, objected to Henshaw's plans to combat sectional divisions within the Navy by assigning Northerners to Southern naval posts and Southerners to Northern naval posts.
James S. GreenEdit
James Madison PorterEdit
Henry Stanbery served as Attorney General for President Andrew Johnson. Stanbery resigned in 1868 to defend Johnson during his impeachment trial. After Johnson was acquitted, he nominated Stanbery to resume his tenure as Attorney General, but the Senate rejected the nomination, 29–11.
Charles B. WarrenEdit
President Calvin Coolidge nominated Charles B. Warren, a Michigan attorney, as Attorney General. The nomination was rejected on March 10, 1925, by a vote of 41–39. The lengthy and contentious debate on Warren's nomination consumed the first few days of the new Congress, as "Democrats and insurgent Republicans united to oppose the confirmation on the ground" that Warren's close association with the Sugar Trust made him unsuitable to enforce federal antitrust laws. The nomination originally stood at a 40–40 deadlock, but Vice President Charles G. Dawes did not arrive in the Senate chamber in time to use his tie-breaking vote before Senator Lee S. Overman of North Carolina switched his vote. Coolidge resubmitted the nomination to the Senate, but Warren was again rejected on March 16, by a vote of 46–39.
In 1959, President Dwight D. Eisenhower nominated Lewis Strauss as Secretary of Commerce in a recess appointment. Strauss had made enemies in the Senate during his tenure as Chair of the United States Atomic Energy Commission. Strauss lost the confirmation vote, 49–46. In July 1959, Strauss resigned.
George H. W. BushEdit
In 1989 President George H. W. Bush nominated John Tower, a former United States Senator, to be Secretary of Defense. He was investigated over claims of drunkenness, womanizing, and ties with defense contractors. The Senate rejected Tower by a vote of 53–47.
Withdrawn nominations or near nominationsEdit
Lucius Horatio StocktonEdit
President James Madison nominated Henry Dearborn as Secretary of War in 1815. He had previously held the same position from 1801 to 1809 under Thomas Jefferson. However, Dearborn had failed as a general in the War of 1812. The Senate rejected Dearborn's nomination, but allowed him to withdraw.
In 1868, President Andrew Johnson forced Edwin Stanton, a Radical Republican who had served as Secretary of War since 1862, to resign from his cabinet, in violation of the 1867 Tenure of Office Act. Johnson then nominated Thomas Ewing. The Senate refused to consider Ewing's nomination, while they moved to impeach Johnson.
In 1993, President Bill Clinton nominated Zoë Baird to become his Attorney General. Before she could have a confirmation hearing, it became known that she had hired undocumented workers for her household, which became known as the "Nannygate" affair. Baird paid a civil penalty levied by the Immigration and Naturalization Service, and Clinton withdrew the nomination.
Kimba Wood became Clinton's second choice for Attorney General. She also hired an undocumented worker, though she did so before it was made illegal by the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986. She withdrew from consideration.
Bobby Ray InmanEdit
Clinton selected Bobby Ray Inman to become his Secretary of Defense on December 16, 1993. Inman withdrew his nomination during a press conference on January 18, 1994, in which he accused William Safire, a columnist for The New York Times, of recruiting Senator Bob Dole to attack him, and claimed that Dole and Trent Lott intended to "turn up the heat" on his nomination. Dole and Lott denied this.
Clinton nominated Anthony Lake to become the Director of Central Intelligence in December 1996. He withdrew in March 1997, after questioning by the United States Senate Intelligence Committee turned contentious.
Clinton nominated Hershel Gober to become the United States Secretary of Veterans Affairs in 1997. When it became clear that the United States Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs intended to use the confirmation hearings "to explore circumstances surrounding the exoneration of Mr. Gober after he was accused of sexual misconduct in 1993," Clinton withdrew the nomination.
George W. BushEdit
In 2001, President George W. Bush nominated Linda Chavez for Secretary of Labor. She withdrew from consideration after it was revealed that she had given money to a one-time undocumented immigrant who lived in her home more than a decade earlier. Chavez withdrew her nomination, but stated she never felt pressure from Bush's political team to do so.
On December 3, 2004, President Bush nominated Bernard Kerik to become United States Secretary of Homeland Security. On December 10, Kerik withdrew from the nomination, after acknowledging that he had unknowingly hired an undocumented worker as a nanny and housekeeper.
While still President-elect of the United States, Barack Obama chose Tom Daschle to be his United States Secretary of Health and Human Services. He withdrew in February 2009 over $140,000 in unpaid taxes.
On December 3, 2008, Obama chose Bill Richardson to be his Secretary of Commerce. On January 4, 2009, Richardson withdrew his name from consideration because of a federal grand jury investigation into pay-to-play allegations. Later that year, the investigation ended and Richardson and his staff members were cleared of any wrongdoing.
Following Richardson's withdrawal, Obama nominated Judd Gregg to be his Secretary of Commerce. On February 12, 2009, Gregg withdrew his name from consideration for the position, citing disagreements with Obama on issues surrounding the United States Census and the stimulus bill.
On December 8, 2016, President-elect Donald Trump nominated Andrew Puzder as his Secretary of Labor. Puzder had difficulty divesting himself from his company, CKE Restaurants. A workers group alleged that he had committed wage theft and sexual harassment against his employees, and he admitted to have hired an undocumented worker as a nanny without paying taxes for her. An Oprah Winfrey tape from 1990 featured his first wife describing spousal abuse that he allegedly committed. In reaction to public coverage of the tape, his former wife said she had been "misled by faulty advice" during her divorce proceedings, and had subsequently "fully" withdrawn those allegations in 1990. She was adamant that Puzder was "not abusive or violent".
On February 15, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell informed the Trump administration that Puzder did not have the votes required to be confirmed and Puzder withdrew himself from consideration the same day.
President Trump fired David Shulkin as Secretary of Veterans Affairs on March 28, 2018, and nominated Ronny Jackson, serving as Physician to the President, to succeed him. Senators expressed skepticism of the nomination due to Jackson's lack of management experience.
Current and former employees on the White House Medical Unit accused Jackson of creating a hostile work environment, excessively drinking on the job, and improperly dispensing medication. Amid these reports, the U.S. Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs postponed Jackson's confirmation hearings on April 23. Jackson withdrew his nomination on April 26.
On December 20, 2018, General Jim Mattis announced his resignation as Secretary of Defense over differences in Syria policy, leaving office on January 1, 2019. White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders announced on May 9 that Deputy Secretary of Defense Patrick M. Shanahan would be nominated to succeed Mattis, praising his "outstanding service to the country and his demonstrated ability to lead."
President Trump announced on June 18 that he would not be formally nominating Shanahan "so that he can devote more time to his family" following reports of domestic violence; his then-wife and son were arrested in 2010 and 2011 respectively on allegations of assault. Shanahan called the incidents a "tragedy" and said further public attention would "ruin my son's life."
On July 28, 2019, President Trump announced that Dan Coats would be departing the cabinet-rank post of Director of National Intelligence and he would be nominating U.S. Representative John Ratcliffe to replace Coats. Richard Burr, the Republican chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, was reported to have warned the White House that he considered Ratcliffe to be "too political". On August 2, Trump announced that he would not be nominating Ratcliffe, complaining that Ratcliffe was "being treated very unfairly by the LameStream Media". He was criticised for a lack of intelligence experience and exaggerations on his résumé and had received little support from senators of either party.
On February 28, 2020, Trump announced Ratcliffe's nomination to be Director of National Intelligence again, replacing acting director Richard Grenell and calling Ratcliffe an "outstanding man of great talent!" He was confirmed by the Senate on May 21.
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