ArtII.S2.C2.2.1.2 Establishment of Offices and Officers Not Provided for in Constitution

Article II, Section 2, Clause 2:

He shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur; and he shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the supreme Court, and all other Officers of the United States, whose Appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by Law: but the Congress may by Law vest the Appointment of such inferior Officers, as they think proper, in the President alone, in the Courts of Law, or in the Heads of Departments.

It has never been questioned that the Constitution distinguishes between the creation of an office and appointment thereto. The former is by law and takes place by virtue of Congress’s power to pass all laws necessary and proper for carrying into execution the powers which the Constitution confers upon the government of the United States and its departments and officers. 1 As an incident to the establishment of an office, Congress has also the power to determine the qualifications of the officer and in so doing necessarily limits the range of choice of the appointing power. First and last, it has laid down a great variety of qualifications, depending on citizenship, residence, professional attainments, occupational experience, age, race, property, sound habits, and so on. It has required that appointees be representative of a political party, of an industry, of a geographic region, or of a particular branch of the Government. It has confined the President’s selection to a small number of persons to be named by others. 2 Indeed, it has contrived at times to designate a definite eligibility, thereby virtually usurping the appointing power. 3 Despite the record of the past, however, it is not at all clear that Congress may cabin the President’s discretion, at least for offices that he considers important, by, for example, requiring him to choose from lists compiled by others. To be sure, there are examples, but they are not free of ambiguity. 4

But when Congress contrived actually to participate in the appointment and administrative process and provided for selection of the members of the Federal Election Commission, two by the President, two by the Senate, and two by the House, with confirmation of all six members vested in both the House and the Senate, the Court unanimously held the scheme to violate the Appointments Clause and the principle of separation of powers. The term officers of the United States is a substantive one requiring that any appointee exercising significant authority pursuant to the laws of the United States be appointed in the manner prescribed by the Appointments Clause. 5 The Court did hold, however, that the Commission so appointed and confirmed could be delegated the powers Congress itself could exercise, that is, those investigative and informative functions that congressional committees carry out were properly vested in this body.

Footnotes

  1.  Jump to essay-1However, Congress’s power . . . is inevitably bounded by the express language of Article II, cl. 2, and unless the method it provides comports with the latter, the holders of those offices will not be ‘Officers of the United States.’ Buckley v. Valeo, 424 U.S. 1, 138–39 (1976) (quoted in Freytag v. Commissioner, 501 U.S. 868, 883 (1991)). The designation or appointment of military judges, who are officers of the United States, does not violate the Appointments Clause. The judges are selected by the Judge Advocate General of their respective branch of the Armed Forces. These military judges, however, were already commissioned officers who had been appointed by the President with the advice and consent of the Senate, so that their designation simply and permissibly was an assignment to them of additional duties that did not need a second formal appointment. Weiss v. United States, 510 U.S. 163 (1994). However, the appointment of civilian judges to the Coast Guard Court of Military Review was impermissible and their actions were not salvageable under the de facto officer doctrine. Ryder v. United States, 515 U.S. 177 (1995).
  2.  Jump to essay-2See Myers v. United States, 272 U.S. 52, 264–74 (1926) (Justice Brandeis dissenting). Chief Justice Taft in the opinion of the Court in Myers readily recognized the legislative power of Congress to establish offices, determine their functions and jurisdiction, fix the terms of office, and prescribe reasonable and relevant qualifications and rules of eligibility of appointees, always provided that the qualifications do not so limit selection and so trench upon executive choice as to be in effect legislative designation. Id. at 128–29. For reiteration of Congress’s general powers, see Buckley v. Valeo, 424 U.S. 1, 134–35 (1976); Morrison v. Olson, 487 U.S. 654, 673–77 (1988). See also United States v. Ferreira, 54 U.S. (13 How.) 40, 51 (1852).
  3.  Jump to essay-3See data in E. Corwin, supra at 363-65. Congress has repeatedly designated individuals, sometimes by name, more frequently by reference to a particular office, for the performance of specified acts or for posts of a nongovernmental character; e.g., to paint a picture (Johnathan Trumbull), to lay out a town, to act as Regents of Smithsonian Institution, to be managers of Howard Institute, to select a site for a post office or a prison, to restore the manuscript of the Declaration of Independence, to erect a monument at Yorktown, to erect a statue of Hamilton, and so on and so forth. Note, Power of Appointment to Public Office under the Federal Constitution, 42 Harv. L. Rev. 426, 430–31 (1929). In his message of April 13, 1822, President Monroe stated that, as a general principle, . . . Congress have [sic] no right under the Constitution to impose any restraint by law on the power granted to the President so as to prevent his making a free selection of proper persons for these [newly created] offices from the whole body of his fellow-citizens. 2 J. Richardson supra at 698, 701. The statement is ambiguous, but its apparent intention is to claim for the President unrestricted power in determining who are proper persons to fill newly created offices. See the distinction drawn in Myers v. United States, 272 U.S. 52, 128–29 (1926), quoted supra. And note that in Public Citizen v. U.S. Department of Justice, 491 U.S. 440, 482–89 (1989) (concurring), Justice Kennedy suggested the President has sole and unconfined discretion in appointing).
  4.  Jump to essay-4The Sentencing Commission, upheld in Mistretta v. United States, 488 U.S. 361 (1989), numbered among its members three federal judges; the President was to select them after considering a list of six judges recommended to the President by the Judicial Conference of the United States. Id. at 397 (quoting 28 U.S.C. § 991(a)). The Comptroller General is nominated by the President from a list of three individuals recommended by the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President pro tempore of the Senate. Bowsher v. Synar, 478 U.S. 714, 727 (1986) (citing 31 U.S.C. § 703(a)(2)). In Metropolitan Washington Airports Auth. v. Citizens for the Abatement of Airport Noise, 501 U.S. 252, 268–69 (1991), the Court carefully distinguished these examples from the particular situation before it that it condemned, but see id. at 288 (Justice White dissenting), and in any event it never actually passed on the list devices in Mistretta and Synar. The fault in Airports Authority was not the validity of lists generally, the Court condemning the device there as giving Congress control of the process, in violation of Buckley v. Valeo.
  5.  Jump to essay-5Buckley v. Valeo, 424 U.S. 1, 109–143 (1976). The Court took pains to observe that the clause was violated not only by the appointing process but by the confirming process, inclusion of the House of Representatives, as well. Id. at 137. See also Metropolitan Washington Airports Auth. v. Citizens for the Abatement of Aircraft Noise, 501 U.S. 252 (1991).