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Appointments Clause

Article 2, Section 2 of the Constitution specifies that a president may appoint "officers of the United States" with "advice and consent of the Senate.

It specifies that Congress may allow "inferior officers" to be appointed by the president without the need for Senate approval.

It also allows the president to bypass Senate approval when the Senate is not in session, via a recess appointment.

Referenced by...
Senators sue to reverse Trump's AG appointment (2018-Nov-19)

Appropriations Clause

Clause of Article 1, Section 9 of the Constitution that states, "No Money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law ."

Bill of Attainder

A bill that imposes a punishment on specific individuals or members of a group.

This violates Article 1, Section 9 of the Constitution.


The document that defines the structure of the United States government, and provides a framework for how it operates - including the making of laws.

If there is a question about whether a law or government action violates a provision of the Constitution, a federal court (including the Supreme Court), may rule on whether the law or action is constitutional - meaning it is consistent with the Constitution - or unconstitutional - meaning it violates a provision of the Constitution (

You can read the entire text of the constitution here.

Constitutional Amendment

A change to the U.S. Constitution (or a state's constitution).


In the Constitution, emoluments refers to benefits from holding office - such as compensation, privileges, or certain advantages.

Emoluments are mentioned twice in the Constitution...

Foreign Emoluments

Article 1, Section 9 states...
No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the United States: And no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.

Domestic Emoluments

Article 2, Section 1 states...
The President shall, at stated Times, receive for his Services, a Compensation, which shall neither be increased nor diminished during the Period for which he shall have been elected, and he shall not receive within that Period any other Emolument from the United States, or any of them.

Referenced by...
Appeals court dismisses emoluments suit against Trump (2019-Jul-29)
Judge: MD and DC can obtain Trump financial info (2018-Nov-03)
Attorneys General sue Trump over business conflicts (2017-Jun-12)

Equal Protection Clause

Part of the Constitution's 14th Amendment, which states

No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

Referenced by...
Supreme Court - NC districts unfair to black voters (2017-May-22)
Supreme Court - VA districts race-based (2017-Mar-01)

Habeus Corpus

Latin for "having the body", it requires that the government provide evidence of a reason to detain someone.

It is a right granted in Article 1, Section 9 of the Constitution, which states...

The Privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it.

Recess Appointment

Normally, the Senate must approve appointments to key positions in a president's administration. But what if the Senate is not in session?

According to Article 2, Section 2 of the Constitution...

"The President shall have Power to fill up all Vacancies that may happen during the Recess of the Senate, by granting Commissions which shall expire at the End of their next Session."

Presidential appointments made during a Senate recess are called recess appointments. They do not require Senate approval and may remain in effect throughout the next session.

Presidents have used recess appointments to bypass a Senate that is blocking a nomination. The Senate has responded by holding pro forma sessions to keep the Senate in session.

The scope of a president's ability to make recess appointments is questionable, however. Before the Constitution was ratified, Alexander Hamilton wrote in the Federalist Papers (No. 67) that...

The ordinary power of appointment is confined to the President and Senate JOINTLY, and can therefore only be exercised during the session of the Senate; but as it would have been improper to oblige this body to be continually in session for the appointment of officers and as vacancies might happen IN THEIR RECESS, which it might be necessary for the public service to fill without delay, the succeeding clause is evidently intended to authorize the President, SINGLY, to make temporary appointments "during the recess of the Senate, by granting commissions which shall expire at the end of their next session."

During the early days of the country, Congress might be in session for less than half of the year, leaving long periods when critical positions could not otherwise be filled.

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