History question: How often have judges nominated by the POTUS been confirmed by

the Senate?

Has there been a change since GWB took office?

This is not meant to be a GD question. I’m not looking to learn who is correct in this dispute between the Senate and GWB.

I’m just wondering what the tradition has been prior to 2001 and since 2001.


All federal judges must be confirmed by the Senate.

A small exception occurs when an appointment is made while Congress is not in session (recess appointment.) In this case, the judgeship expires when Congress is in session again, the person must be confirmed by the Senate to keep the position.

Are you just trying to find out how many judges were rejected by the Senate? That’s a relatively small percentage since the President will usually withdraw a nomination rather than face the humiliation of a rejection unless there is political capital to be gained by it.

One of the chages I’ve heard recently is that the Dems in the Senate have broken with over 200 years of precedent in failing to pretty much routinely above the vast majority of federal judges appointed by the President.

I’m trying to find out if this is true.

So, for instance, if someone were to inform me that prior to 2001 99% of the judges were confirmed within two weeks of nominaton and since 2001 only 5% of the judges have been approved within any time frame, I’d know that the charge is true.

Sorry if the OP was too brief. I may have been a little too concerned about avoiding into the politics of the issue and didn’t make myself clear.

Not quite. Article II, section 2:

So a recess appointment doesn’t expire when the Senate goes back into session. The President I believe must resubmit the nomination; once the recess appointment is made it’s no longer before the Senate.

I assume you mean “routinely approve”?

I don’t have year-by-year stats on judicial confirmation rates, but this article from November 2003 indicates that the vacancy rate in the federal judiciary is at its lowest in 13 years. There are about five or so judicial nominees who have been filibustered by the Democrats (two of whom have received recess appointments and one of whom withdrew his name from consideration).

Yeah, I did mean “routinely approve.”

Thanks for the link. It seems to answer the question.

For those who didn’t check the link, the article states four judicial nominees are currently being held up by Congressional Democrats and 168 judicial nominees have been approved. It also states “There are only a relative handful being filibustered and held up. And this contrasts with the dozens of Clinton nominees who were held up by the Republicans in the last six years of the Clinton administration.”

To be fair, the article also states:

Nowacki being John Nowacki, a Justice Department spokesman. There are two sides to every political fight.

This sentence from the news article: “There are only a relative handful being filibustered and held up. And this contrasts with the dozens of Clinton nominees who were held up by the Republicans in the last six years of the Clinton administration” hits at the heart of the debate.

Right now Senate Democrats are engaging in the unprecedented practice of filibustering circuit court nominees. In fact, filibustering a judicial nominee is very rare and has been done few times in the past. Democrats are effectively thwarting the will of the majority of the Senate, since they know these nominees would get over 50 votes if they had an up-or-down roll call, so they must resort to a filibuster, which requires 60 votes to overcome.

However, the article also points out that Republicans held up Clinton’s nominees during his term. However, it’s a mistake to equat the two, as this excerpt from a Senate Republican Policy Committee paper on the judiciary debate discusses:


There is certainly a difference between thwarting the will of the majority of the Senate (as the Democrats are doing now) and acting on behalf of the majority of the Senate (as the Republicans did in Clinton’s term).

Yes, it makes a difference, but not to the President or his nominees. Whether the Senate is blocking the nominations via the “good” route (committee holds) or the “bad” route (filibuster), the net effect is the same: the President’s nominees aren’t making it to the bench.

So a filibuster by 40% of the Senate is slimy and underhanded, but a hold by a handful of committee members is proper and aboveboard, because the committee chairman is a member of the majority party, and we all know that party members never, ever break ranks.

Gee, I wonder why they do all that messy voting, then.

Nametag, as Senator Crapo pointed out, “if the committee does not act on these nominees [but] if the majority of the Senate wants to bring them forward, there is a discharge petition that can bring them forward.”

Early Out, it’s true that either way, the President’s nominees aren’t making it to the bench, but one is consistent with the Constitution and one isn’t. The Constitution nowhere grants a minority of Senators the right to hold up a President’s nominee, which is what the Democrats are doing via filibuster.

This is a conclusory argument. Where does it say in the Constitution that a minority of senators can’t hold up a nominee? It says only that the Senate has the power to advise and consent. It seems to me that the actual operations of the Senate are left up to the Senate itself. The Senate created the filibuster as a valid tool. The Democrats didn’t invent it. Indeed, Republicans have enthusiastically used the filibuster when it served their interests.

I fail to see how, of two procedures that are not mentioned in the Constitution, one is "consistent " with it and the other is not. The notion of preventing a majority from overruling a large minority is very consistent with the Constitution, thank you very much, what with those supermajorities required for amendment and ratification. Filibusters are perfectly legal, as they are provided for in the Senate rules.

A filibuster is unconstitutional? When can we expect SCOTUS to rule on that?

Seriously, though, who’s responsible for creating the rules of the Senate? I refer you to the Constitution, Article I, Section 5, Clause 2: “Each House may determine the Rules of its Proceedings.”

The Senate has decided, in its infinite wisdom, that this is how it wants to conduct its business. It seems a bit disingenuous then to turn around and brand “obstructionist” those who use those rules to further their own cause.

Let the Senate change its rules, if it doesn’t like the way they’re being applied. They’ve certainly done it before. Remember when there was effectively no way to end a filibuster? Until 1917, one Senator could block action indefinitely. From 1917 until 1975, it took a two-thirds vote to invoke cloture. Only in 1975 was the threshhold lowered to three-fifths.

Methinks we’ve wandered way beyond the bounds of a GQ thread, and have entered GD territory. Somewhere out there, there must be some straightforward stats that say, “Of all the judicial nominations trotted out by Pres X, the Senate confirmed Y% of them.”

It’s surprisingly tough to find straightforward numbers. All I’ve dug up so far are some data points. This, from the New York Times, Nov. 10, 2003:

A lot of the other sources are very selective about the time period they look at. I’ve found several sites, for example, that trumpet the fact that Clinton got a higher percentage of his nominees approved during the first two years of his Presidency than Bush has. That’s all well and good, but Clinton was in office for eight years, not two. What happened during the remaining six years? And why aren’t those sources trotting out those numbers? (Rhetorical question, of course!)

Leaving out the politics, I’d like a neutral cite for the statement that filibustering circuit court nominees is “unprecedented.”

Actually, the recent Democratic filibusters do seem to have been unprecedencted. According to the Jewish World Review,