Earlier today the Senate voted to confirm Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court by a vote of 58-42. The Democrats attempted a filibuster, but cloture was invoked and the attempt was defeated.
All Republicans except for Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island voted yes.
All Democrats except for Ben Nelson of Nebraska, Kent Conrad of North Dakota, Tim Johnson of South Dakota and Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia voted no.
That's about as partisan as it can get. But has it always been this way? Let's go through some recent nominees and see what happened.President George W Bush
78 - 22 John Roberts (2005)President Bill Clinton
87 - 9 Stephen Breyer (1994): 87 - 9
97 - 3 Ruth Bader Ginsburg (1993)President George H W Bush
52 - 48 Clarence Thomas (1991)
90 - 9 David Souter (1990) President Ronald Reagan
97 - 0 Anthony Kennedy (1988)42 - 58 Robert Bork (1987) defeated
98 - 0 Antonin Scalia (1986)
65 - 33 William Rehnquist, Chief Justice (1986)
99 - 0 Sandra Day O'Connor (1981) President Gerald Ford
98 - 0 John Paul Stevens (1975)President Richard M Nixon
98 - 0 William Rehnquist (1971)
89 - 1 Lewis Franklin Powell Jr (1971)
94 - 0 Harry A. Blackmun (1970)45 - 51 Harold Carswell (1970) defeated45 - 55 Clement Haynsworth (1969) defeated
71 - 3 Warren E. Burger, Chief Justice (1969)President Lyndon Baines Johnson
69 - 11 Thurgood Marshall (1967)
In the interests of time that's as far back as I'm going to go. If you'd like to do more research yourself here's a very good site
that lists all of justices in our history.
I think that the results of my little survey are pretty clear: With few exceptions, most justices are confirmed by overwhelming margims. When there were close votes there were obvious controversial issues.
Not so with John Roberts or Samuel Alito. Unless you are off in left-wing lulu land, it is intellectually dishonest to say that they are "outside the mainstream". If anything, Ruth Bader Ginsburg is the most radical person
to be appointed in recent years, and she was confirmed by an overwhelming margin. Powerline
sums up my thoughts pretty well:
The vote changes the "rules" for confirming Supreme Court Justices. Under the Alito rule, Senators will vote against highly qualified nominee for no reason other than that they expect the nominee to rule contrary to their preference on major issues. Under the Alito rule, the president's party, in effect, must control the Senate in order for the president to have top-notch nominees of his choice confirmed. When the the president's party doesn't control the Senate, only compromise nominees acceptable to both parties can expect to be confirmed.
Such a shame that it has come to this. Liberals will no doubt find a way to blame it all on President Bush, citing this or that. But the fact remains that to good nominees, John Roberts and Samuel Alito, had far too many votes cast against them, and for no good reason.
The reason for all this of course is that the Democrats are being forced leftward by radical groups such as Moveon.org and by blogs such as the Daily Kos (Republicans are not moving righward, as the effect the right-wing blogosphere has on them is somewhat different, but that is not the subject of this post).
President Bush will likely get a chance to nominate another justice. We will see a simiar battle, with similarly unfortunate effects for our country and politics.