The Constitution of the United States, in Article II, section 2, tasks the U.S. Senate with providing advice and consent for presidential nominations to a variety of federal offices, the federal judicial courts, and diplomatic personnel.

 

Senate records pertaining to executive nomination are held by the Center for Legislative Archives. These records are highlighted in a fantastic article by John P. Deeben in Prologue, a magazine published by the National Archives, titled: “Serving at the Pleasure of the President: The Nomination Papers of the United States Senate, 1789-1946.”

 

A quick overview: nomination records can vary considerably from nominee to nominee and are composed of a wide assortment of documents, including correspondence, both for and against the nominee, from individuals, the administration, and executive departments; affidavits and petitions; blue slips; resumes; committee vote tallies; hearing transcripts; newspaper clippings; and other record types.

 

From 1789 to 1946, nomination papers were organized chronologically by Congress, then alphabetically by name of nominee. Starting in 1947, nomination papers were arranged by the committee to which the nomination was referred.

 

A finding aid, Papers of the U.S. Senate relating to Presidential Nominations, 1789-1901, lists all the individuals with Senate nomination records through the 56th Congress. A supplemental publication covers 1901 to 1946.

 

A good starting point for researching nominations is the Senate Executive Journal -- a record of Senate proceedings relating to its functions of confirming presidential nominees and ratifying treaties. The Executive Journal will include the date of a nomination, the committee to which the nomination was referred, and record of any Senate action taken.

 

The Executive Journal for the 1st through 43rd Congresses is available online through A Century of Lawmaking. Additional years can be found freely available online through sources like Hathi Trust. It’s also available through subscription databases like HeinOnline, and in print through a local library or a regional Federal Depository Library.

 

Want to learn more about the nomination process? The Senate Historical Office has prepared a detailed historical overview. Or do you need assistance in finding nomination records? We’re happy to help -- send us an email at legislative.archives@nara.gov. Please note that all nomination files are closed until they are 50 years old.