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Answer to the Question

The logistics thing I asked the other day that is.

I did have a bunch of references I found, but I won’t properly footnote this, just give the results. It just took 15 or 20 minutes of Googling that I didn’t have time for when I posted the original question.

The way it usually works in presidential transitions is this:

  1. The president-elect announces his intention to nominate various people to the cabinet once he is inaugurated.
  2. The new senate is sworn in early in January.
  3. The appropriate committees of the new senate hold hearings on the prospective nominees, even though there are no actual nominees yet, just intended nominees.
  4. The committees vote on the prospective nominees to give their recommendations to the full Senate.
  5. The President is inaugurated.
  6. Usually within the first hour or two of the presidency, the new president officially makes the nominations.
  7. The Senate convenes for a special session, usually once again just an hour or two later, for the final vote on the nominees… often a single voice vote to approve all nominees at once rather than full individual votes on each nominee.
  8. The new cabinet officers are sworn in, usually also within an hour or two.

And that be that. Pretty much what I expected. I find it an interesting cart before the horse thing to hold the confirmation hearings before the actual formal nomination, but given the practical consideration of needing to let the new cabinet be seated as quickly as possible after the new administration begins, it makes sense. But it is still odd.

There are even more odd things that can happen in edge conditions during the transitional period. For instance, the line of succession gets somewhat odd if “bad things” happen during the time period where parts of the new administration has taken office, but not all of it, because while it is traditional for the previous cabinet to resign and be replaced by the new cabinet, the actual timing of such resignations can vary. Do folks resign effective at noon on Inauguration day? Effective at the moment the new President is sworn in? Effective when their successor is sworn in? Depending on exactly how that is done, during Inauguration day itself, there can be times where the line of succession still includes members of the old administration as well as the new. (There is also oddness due to the fact that the Vice President is sworn in first in the case something happens to the outgoing president after the new VP is sworn in but before the new President is.)

Now, if anything happened that actually caused any of the above to matter, I’m guessing there would be much confusion, but the end result would very quickly be made to match what you would expect to have happened if the new administration had already fully taken their place… and the detailed timelines of when various things are supposed to happen would be ignored, but…