FACT CHECK: Has It Historically Taken More Than 67 Days To Vote On A Supreme Court Nominee?
Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a Minnesota Democrat, suggested on ABC’s “This Week” that it has historically taken the Senate more than 67 days to vote on a Supreme Court nominee.
The Senate has, on average, taken 23 days to vote on all Supreme Court nominees. Current Supreme Court justices were confirmed by the Senate an average of 67 days after nomination.
President Donald Trump said Saturday that he will announce a Supreme Court nominee on July 9. If confirmed, the nominee will replace Justice Anthony Kennedy, who will retire at the end of the month.
Republican Sen. Susan Collins said on “This Week” Sunday that a nomination in the coming weeks would provide the Senate with enough time to vote on a potential justice in time for the next court term.
“When I look at the average amount of time between a nominee being sent to us and when there is a vote on the nominee, it’s 67 days,” Collins said. “So we’ve just entered July, that would bring us into September, and that would allow a nominee to be confirmed before the Supreme Court reconvenes in early October.”
Later in the show, Klobuchar disputed Collins’ figure for average consideration time. “Every single senator should be able to meet with the nominee. And while Senator Collins used that figure, 65 days, I believe it’s longer when you look back through history at how long it has taken for a judge to actually have a vote on the floor,” she said.
Collins’ figure is correct for the current court. The Senate took an average of 67 days to confirm the nine current Supreme Court justices. It took 66 days to confirm Justice Neil Gorsuch, the most recent appointee. Justice Clarence Thomas took the Senate the longest amount of time to confirm at 99 days. (RELATED: Would Reagan And Scalia Have Supported An Assault Weapons Ban?)
President George W. Bush originally nominated Chief Justice John Roberts to be an associate justice. His nomination was withdrawn after 39 days following the death of Chief Justice William Rehnquist. Bush then nominated Roberts for chief justice, and he was confirmed 23 days later. When counting the extra 39 days from Roberts’ first nomination, the average time of consideration for the current Supreme Court justices is about 71 days.
Looking back further in history, the average number of days between a Supreme Court nomination and a Senate vote is significantly shorter, not longer, as Klobuchar claimed.
A Daily Caller News Foundation analysis of data from the Congressional Research Service found that it took the Senate an average of 23 days to vote on all Supreme Court nominees dating back to the time of President George Washington. When including nominations that were withdrawn or postponed and did not receive a vote, the average is 25 days.
From 1789 through the early 20th century, most Supreme court nominees were confirmed within a week of nomination. Some, such as Chief Justice and former President William Howard Taft, were confirmed the same day that they were nominated.
The Congressional Research Service noted that typical consideration time for nominations since 1967 dwarfs typical consideration time before 1967. From 1967 to 2010, a median of 69 days elapsed from the date the Senate received a nomination to final Senate action. Before that, it was a median of seven days.
Carl Tobias, a professor at the University of Richmond School of Law, told TheDCNF that there are a number of reasons why the Senate takes longer to confirm nominees in the modern era. Most notably, Supreme Court nominees did not testify before the Senate until 1925, and confirmation hearings slow down the process.
Media attention and the 24-hour news cycle affect the process, Tobias said. Some thought that the pressure of televised hearings affected Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork’s nomination in 1987. The Senate voted not to confirm him 108 days after it received his nomination from President Ronald Reagan. Kennedy was nominated and confirmed in his place.
“In the post-Bork era, with a few exceptions (Breyer and Ginsburg), increasing partisanship has made the hearings and the process more contentious and prolonged,” Tobias told TheDCNF in an email. Controversial nominees that the Senate rejects or declines to consider consume more time than other nominees.
Tobias also said that Americans view the court as more consequential now and that Senators take the duty to confirm Supreme Court justices more seriously. (RELATED: These Are Trump’s Two Top Picks For The Supreme Court)
Klobuchar mentioned the importance of Supreme Court decisions in the interview. “The court makes decisions in the last decades about who you can marry, where you can go to school, what your work’s going to be like,” she said.
Klobuchar did not respond to a request for comment.
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