Trump Cabinet Picks Must Face Full and Fair Vetting Process

December 08, 2016

Why do presidential cabinet picks matter to women and girls? From campus sexual assault to sex discrimination to reproductive health care, all kinds of crucial issues can be at stake when a presidential administration comes into office.

The U.S. Constitution outlines steps for a peaceful transition of power between presidential administrations. Known as the Appointments Clause, this article empowers the president to appoint certain public officials with the “advice and consent” of the U.S. Senate. AAUW has been closely monitoring the appointment announcements made by President-elect Donald Trump as he molds his administration. In early January 2017, the Senate will be faced with serious questions and confirmation votes on these nominees. Senate action on these appointees will affect the decisions that our federal agencies and courts make and, in turn, will impact the life of every American. That’s why we say “personnel is policy.”

The Senate has few constitutional duties more significant than that of advising on and consenting to cabinet level positions and Supreme Court nominations, and AAUW believes a full vetting of each nominee must include close examination of threshold questions concerning qualifications and temperament. Each nominee should also be free from all current and potential conflicts of interest. Especially during this tumultuous time in our democracy, even the appearance of a nominee’s impropriety could undermine public confidence in a fair process and an ethical government.

Personal or political allegiances do not in any way entitle individual nominees to less scrutiny. Indeed, senators should possess a healthy skepticism where nominees have significant personal, business, or political relationships with the president-elect, and such nominees may require additional scrutiny to ensure public confidence in a full and fair confirmation process.

Furthermore, time spent as an elected official is not the only important qualification. It is inappropriate for senators to give excessive weight to a nominee solely because the nominee has served as a senator or member of the House of Representatives. A sense of collegiality with a candidate should never shorten the constitutional process of thoughtful vetting and serious consideration of all information obtained throughout the confirmation process.

AAUW will be watching these confirmation hearings with our mission and goals in mind. The heads of certain agencies stand to have significant influence, positive or negative, on issues affecting women and families. We have our own questions for nominees of certain agencies that will deal directly with AAUW’s Public Policy priorities.

Read on to see how specific agencies affect AAUW issues and why the president’s personnel decisions matter to women and girls.


US Department of Education official seal

U.S. Department of Education

The Department of Education (DOE) ensures that we, as a nation, stay true to our longstanding commitment to equal opportunity for all students. The DOE enforces current law ensuring that states and districts cannot divert federal education funds to private or religious schools through voucher systems.

The DOE establishes policies, produces guidance, and collects data to make sure institutions of higher learning provide equitable climates free of harassment, campus sexual assault, and discrimination.

This department also oversees federal financial aid for education, including the distribution and payback of student loans. This important oversight is critical to promoting and expanding access to postsecondary education and increasing college completion rates to make the dream of achieving a degree a reality.

The Office for Civil Rights of the Department of Education is charged with enforcing civil rights regulations in education including Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act, Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. This agency also collects critical statistics on sexual harassment and rape in U.S. schools, including the civil rights data collection and Clery Act data, and offers important guidance to educators, providing students with equal access to education.

Letter to the Senate on the Nomination of Betsy DeVos for Secretary of Education 


US Department of Labor official seal

U.S. Department of Labor

The Department of Labor sets the agenda for a range of issues that directly affect women, particularly how women earn money to support their families. This includes enforcing the federal minimum wage, protecting retirement plans, enforcing laws that prohibit discrimination, and advancing family and medical leave policies.

The Women’s Bureau, a 90-year-old institution within the DOL, is an essential ally to AAUW in working to level the playing field for all women through research and analysis.

The DOL is also a stalwart partner in the fight for equal pay. Its data are crucial to understanding the gender pay gap, advocating for executive and legislative solutions to the problem, and promoting best practices at the state and local levels.

Andrew Puzder withdrew from consideration for the position of Secretary of Labor on February 15, 2017.


US Department of Justice official seal

U.S. Department of Justice

The Department of Justice (DOJ) is responsible for protecting the civil and human rights of all Americans. The DOJ oversees the fair and impartial administration of justice and leads efforts to end discrimination.

The Civil Rights Division Voting Section of the DOJ enforces the civil provisions of the federal laws that safeguard equal access to the ballot box.

The Department of Justice oversees robust enforcement of AAUW-supported laws, such as the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act – which protects Americans from crimes motivated by a victim’s actual or perceived gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, or disability.

Many survivors of violence rely on the Department of Justice for financial and technical assistance to communities across the country that are developing programs, policies, and practices aimed at ending domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, stalking, and human trafficking.

Download AAUW’s Letter to the Senate on the Nomination of Jeff Sessions for Attorney General 


US Department of Health and Human Services official seal

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) sets health care policy and makes critical public health decisions. Health care security is intrinsically tied to economic security, and this relationship is particularly true for women, who are paid less than men are on average and therefore have a harder time affording insurance and care.

HHS’ key role in the management and implementation of the Affordable Care Act impacts women’s lives. The department ensures that health insurance companies do not charge men and women different premiums based on gender and makes sure women have access to preventive services and care at no additional premium cost or co-payment.

Medicaid and Medicare are two crucial elements of the social safety net. Americans, especially women, rely heavily on the protections and services they provide. HHS oversees the policy and operations that guide both programs.

HHS plays a critical role in ending pervasive gender disparities throughout the health care system. Women and men often present different symptoms for the same diseases and react differently to treatments. Gender disparities in medicine—among research subjects, and in health care access and delivery—put women at risk.

Women deserve access to quality and affordable health care from providers they know and trust. For some women this means visiting a Planned Parenthood in their community. HHS can ensure that women continue to choose the health care provider they prefer and trust while accessing critical safety-net programs to make sure that care is within reach. Millions of women avoid unplanned pregnancies and access critical reproductive health care every year thanks to HHS’ Title X family planning program. The clinics in its network play a critical role in securing access to a broad range of family planning and preventive health services.

American families are looking to the Senate to instill confidence in and restore regular order to our nomination and confirmation process. AAUW sincerely hopes the senators in the 115th Congress are up to this significant task and will be monitoring its work (as we always do, in our AAUW Action Fund Congressional Voting Record) in the new year.

Download AAUW’s Letter to the Senate on the Nomination of Rep. Tom Price (R-GA) for Secretary of Health and Human Services



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By:   |   December 08, 2016