Under the U.S. Constitution, the Senate has sole authority to confirm a president's nominee to serve in the Cabinet. And while President-elect Donald Trump can't officially nominate anyone until he becomes president on Jan. 20, the Senate is getting an early start this week on his choices for several top jobs in his administration.
The action began Tuesday with Trump's pick for attorney general, Jeff Sessions, a longtime senator from Alabama, and retired Marine Gen. John Kelly, named by Trump to head the Department of Homeland Security.
By holding hearings before Inauguration Day, the Senate can move quickly once Trump takes the oath of office and formally submits his Cabinet nominees for approval.
- James Mattis, Trump's Reported Pick for Defense Post, Sees Israel Turning Into Apartheid State
- Meet KT McFarland, Trump's anti-Arab, Putin-praising Pick for Deputy National Security Adviser
- Republican Senators Introduce Bill to Move U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem
Republicans have a narrow majority in the Senate, meaning the hearings are unlikely to make or break nominations. Most, if not all, will go through.
But the hearings offer senators an opportunity to explore the backgrounds of Trump's team and plans for the agencies they will soon lead. For Democrats, the hearings offer a high-profile stage to challenge Trump's proposals.
Here's a look at all of Trump's picks:
Secretary of State: Rex Tillerson
Tillerson, 64, has spent his entire career at Exxon Mobil Corp, where he rose to chairman and chief executive officer in 2006. A civil engineer by training, the Texan joined the world's largest energy company in 1975 and led several of its operations in the United States as well as in Yemen, Thailand and Russia. As Exxon's chief executive, he maintained close ties with Moscow and opposed U.S. sanctions against Russia for its incursion into Crimea.
Treasury Secretary: Steven Mnuchin
Mnuchin, 54, is a successful private equity investor, hedge fund manager and Hollywood financier who spent 17 years at Goldman Sachs Group Inc before leaving in 2002. He assembled an investor group to buy a failed California mortgage lender in 2009, rebranded it as OneWest Bank and built it into Southern California's largest bank. Housing advocacy groups criticized the bank for its foreclosure practices, accusing it of being too quick to foreclose on struggling homeowners.
Defense Secretary: James Mattis
Mattis is a retired Marine general known for his tough talk, distrust of Iran and battlefield experience in Iraq and Afghanistan. A former leader of Central Command, which oversees U.S. military operations in the Middle East and South Asia, Mattis, 66, is known by many U.S. forces by his nickname "Mad Dog." He was rebuked in 2005 for saying: "It's fun to shoot some people."
U.S. Attorney General: Jeff Sessions
Sessions, 70, was the first U.S. senator to endorse Trump's presidential bid and has been a close ally since. Son of a country store owner, the senator from Alabama and former federal prosecutor has long taken a tough stance on illegal immigration, opposing any path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.
Interior Secretary: Ryan Zinke
Zinke, 55, a first-term Republican representative from Montana and a member of the House subcommittee on natural resources, has voted for legislation that would weaken environmental safeguards on public lands. He has taken stances favoring coal, which suffered during the Obama administration. The League of Conservation Voters, which ranks lawmakers on their environmental record, gave Zinke an extremely low lifetime score of 3 percent.
Commerce Secretary: Wilbur Ross
Ross, 79, heads the private equity firm W.L. Ross & Co, and Forbes has pegged his net worth at about $2.9 billion. A staunch supporter of Trump, Ross helped shape the Trump campaign's views on trade policy. He blames massive U.S. factory job losses on the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with Canada and Mexico, which went into force in 1994, and the 2001 entry of China into the World Trade Organization. U.S.
Trade Representative: Robert Lighthizer
Lighthizer served as deputy U.S. trade representative during the Reagan administration in the 1980s and has since spent nearly three decades as a lawyer representing U.S. companies in anti-dumping and anti-subsidy cases, currently with the law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher and Flom. A harsh critic of China's trade practices, Lighthizer in 2010 told Congress that U.S. policymakers should take a more aggressive approach in dealing with the Asian country.
Labor Secretary: Andrew Puzder
Puzder, chief executive officer of CKE Restaurants Inc , which runs the Carl's Jr. and Hardee's fast-food chains, has been a vociferous critic of government regulation of the workplace and the National Labor Relations Board. Puzder, 66, has argued that higher minimum wages would hurt workers by forcing restaurants to close and praises the benefits of automation, so his appointment is likely to antagonize organized labor.
Health and Human Services Secretary: Tom Price
U.S. Representative Price, 62, is an orthopedic surgeon who heads the House Budget Committee. A representative from Georgia since 2005, Price has criticized Obamacare and has championed a plan of tax credits, expanded health savings accounts and lawsuit reforms to replace it. He is opposed to abortion.
Housing and Urban Development Secretary: Ben Carson
Carson, 65, is a retired neurosurgeon who dropped out of the Republican presidential nominating race in March and threw his support to Trump. A popular writer and speaker in conservative circles, Carson had been reluctant to take a position in the incoming administration because of his lack of experience in the federal government. He is the first African-American picked for a Cabinet spot by Trump.
Transportation Secretary: Elaine Chao
Chao, 63, was labor secretary under President George W. Bush for eight years and the first Asian-American woman to hold a Cabinet position. She is a director at Ingersoll Rand Plc , News Corp and Vulcan Materials Co. She is married to U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican from Kentucky.
Energy Secretary: Rick Perry
Perry, 66, adds to the list of oil drilling advocates skeptical about climate change who have been picked for senior positions in Trump's Cabinet. The selections have worried environmentalists but cheered an oil and gas industry eager for expansion. Perry, who ran unsuccessfully for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination and briefly ran for president in 2016, would be responsible for U.S. energy policy and oversee the nation's nuclear weapons program.
Education Secretary: Betsy Devos
DeVos, 58, is a billionaire Republican donor, a former chair of the Michigan Republican Party and an advocate for the privatization of education. As chair of the American Federation for Children, she has pushed at the state level for vouchers that families can use to send their children to private schools and for expansion of charter schools.
Department Of Homeland Security Secretary: John Kelly
The final leadership role of Kelly's 45-year military career was head of the U.S. Southern Command, responsible for U.S. military activities and relationships in Latin America and the Caribbean. The 66-year-old retired Marine general differed with Democratic President Barack Obama on key issues and has warned of vulnerabilities along the United States' southern border with Mexico.
White House Chief Of Staff: Reince Priebus
Priebus recently was re-elected to serve as Republican National Committee chairman but will give up the job to join Trump in the White House, where the low-key Washington operative could help forge ties with Congress to advance Trump's agenda. Priebus, 44, was a steadfast supporter of Trump during the presidential campaign even as the party fractured amid the choice.
Environmental Protection Agency Administrator: Scott Pruitt
An ardent opponent of Obama's measures to stem climate change, Oklahoma Attorney General Pruitt, 48, has enraged environmental activists. But he fits with the president-elect's promise to cut the agency back and eliminate regulation that he says is stifling oil and gas drilling. Pruitt became the top state prosecutor for Oklahoma, which has extensive oil reserves, in 2011 and has challenged the EPA multiple times since.
Office of Management and Budget: Mick Mulvaney
U.S. Representative Mick Mulvaney, 49, a South Carolina Republican, is a fiscal conservative. He was an outspoken critic of former House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner, who resigned in 2015 amid opposition from fellow Republicans who were members of the House Freedom Caucus. Mulvaney was first elected to Congress in 2010. U.S.
Ambassador To The United Nations: Nikki Haley
Haley, 44, has been the Republican governor of South Carolina since 2011 and has little experience in foreign policy or the federal government. The daughter of Indian immigrants, she led a successful push last year to remove the Confederate battle flag from the grounds of the South Carolina state capitol after the killing of nine black churchgoers in Charleston by a white gunman.
Small Business Administration Administrator: Linda Mcmahon
McMahon, 68, is a co-founder and former chief executive of the professional wrestling franchise WWE, which is based in Stamford, Connecticut. She ran unsuccessfully as a Republican for a U.S. Senate seat in Connecticut in 2010 and 2012 and was an early supporter of Trump's presidential campaign.
CIA Director: Mike Pompeo
U.S. Representative Pompeo, 53, is a third-term congressman from Kansas who serves on the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee, which oversees the CIA, National Security Agency and cyber security. A retired Army officer and Harvard Law School graduate, Pompeo supports the U.S. government's sweeping collection of Americans' communications data and wants to scrap the nuclear deal with Iran.
National Security Adviser: Michael Flynn
Retired Lieutenant General Flynn was an early Trump supporter and serves as vice chairman on his transition team. He began his Army career in 1981 and was deployed in Afghanistan and Iraq. Flynn became head of the Defense Intelligence Agency in 2012 under Obama but retired a year earlier than expected, according to media reports, and became a fierce critic of Obama's foreign policy.
White House Homeland Security Adviser
Tom Bossert, 41, who worked as deputy homeland security adviser to former Republican President George W. Bush, will serve as the assistant to the president for homeland security and counterterrorism. He currently runs a risk management consulting firm and has a cyber risk fellowship with the Atlantic Council think tank in Washington.
National Economic Council Director: Gary Cohn
Cohn, 56, president and chief operating officer of investment bank Goldman Sachs Group Inc, had widely been considered heir apparent to Lloyd Blankfein, CEO of the Wall Street firm. Trump hammered Goldman and Blankfein during the presidential campaign, releasing a television ad that called Blankfein part of a "global power structure" that had robbed America's working class.
National Trade Council Director: Peter Navarro
Navarro, 67, has suggested a stepped-up engagement with Taiwan, including assistance with a submarine development program. A professor at University of California, Irvine, who advised Trump during the campaign, Navarro argued that Washington should stop referring to the "one China" policy, but stopped short of suggesting it should recognize Taipei: "There is no need to unnecessarily poke the Panda."
Secretary Of The Army: Vincent Viola
Viola, 60, is a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point graduate and a U.S. Army veteran who served in the famed 101st Airborne Division. He founded high-frequency trading firm Virtu Financial Inc and served as chairman of the New York Mercantile Exchange, where he began his financial services career. After the Sept. 11, 2001, al Qaeda attacks on New York and Washington, Viola helped found the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point. He is an owner of the Florida Panthers ice hockey team.
Chief White House Strategist, Senior Counselor: Steve Bannon
The former head of the conservative website Breitbart News came aboard as Trump's campaign chairman in August. A rabble-rousing conservative media figure, he helped shift Breitbart into a forum for the alt-right, a loose confederation of those who reject mainstream politics and includes neo-Nazis, white supremacists and anti-Semites. His hiring signals Trump's dedication to operating outside the norms of Washington. As White House chief of staff, Bannon, 63, will serve as Trump's gatekeeper and agenda-setter.