Tuesday, October 25, 2005

SCOTUS nominations in perspective

Here's a list of all Supreme Court nominations and votes from the very beginning -- John Jay in 1789 to John Roberts in 2005. A couple of things stand out at first glance:

Aside from close votes for Thomas (confirmed) and Bork (rejected), most votes since the back-to-back rejections of Haynsworth and Carswell in 1970, each nominated to replace Fortas, have been overwhelming bipartisan majorities. Clinton's two nominees, Ginsburg and Breyer, sailed through the Senate, and even Souter, now considered some sort of stealth liberal nominee by revisionist conservatives, was confirmed easily.

Voice votes may or may not have been close -- and there were many of them right up to Fortas, LBJ's first nominee -- but a few early rejections and the close votes on Jackson's, Tyler's, and Buchanan's nominees (and, later, Cleveland's nominees) indicate that partisanship is hardly a new phenomenon in American politics. Indeed, based on the numbers (which, admittedly, don't tell the whole story), most recent votes haven't been terribly partisan (perhaps because prospective nominees are now thoroughly vetted in advance). Bork and Thomas are the recent exceptions, but in both cases there were extenuating circumstances: Bork's hearings went badly, to say the least, and Thomas was clearly underqualified for the job -- and both are extremists on the far right.

Anyway, it's all quite interesting. Have a look.

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