Consider Senator James Inhofe, Republican of Oklahoma, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee. He was seemingly set to block Mr. Tata’s nomination last month before Mr. Trump withdrew it. But when the president installed Mr. Tata at the Pentagon anyway, Mr. Inhofe didn’t object. “While I have always stressed the need to have Senate-confirmed leadership in top Pentagon positions,” he said, referring to the Defense Department, “I believe it is within the president’s authority to appoint D.O.D. officials when and as appropriate.”

Similar sentiments have been expressed up and down the Senate Republican caucus, from the majority leader, Mitch McConnell, to his most libertarian colleagues. It would be easy enough for the Senate to use its formidable leverage to demand that the president send in confirmable nominees for these positions. It could hold up other nominees (including for judgeships), exercise more rigorous oversight of agencies without confirmed leaders and withhold must-pass legislation. And yet, even in Mr. Tata’s case, the Senate has played dead…

Even if Mr. Trump’s reliance upon acting officers does not violate the text of the Constitution (a matter of considerable debate), it certainly violates its spirit. It allows the president to administer entire departments and to impose policies that affect millions of Americans through individuals who weren’t — and, in many cases, would not have been — confirmed by the Senate. The effects are becoming increasingly public.